Unless you’re a serious ski jumping fan, I bet you can’t remember who won the 1988 Winter Olympics in the discipline.
But the man who came dead last in both the 70m and 90m jumps became such a cultural phenomenon that, nearly three decades later, he is still in the public eye.
And now, following a well-received film about his life, Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards has embarked on his first-ever theatre speaking tour with a show dubbed Try Hard.
Did he ever think that those events in Calgary would continue to shape his life today? ‘No I had no idea,’ he tells The Guide with a chuckle. ‘No idea that some 29 years later they would make a movie about my life, it’s like Calgary all over again.
‘I’m appearing all over the UK and the world, doing appearances and speaking, it’s great fun. Hopefully it’ll last a few years and then I can see my way into retirement!’
Before those Olympics, Eddie, a builder by trade, initially aspired to be a downhill skier. But failing to make the grade, he decided to have a crack at ski jumping. Great Britain had not had an Olympic jumper before – or since.
And once he gained qualification for the Olympics, Eddie’s intentions were modest.
‘I was hoping to get a little bit of attention from the UK press, turn that attention into sponsorship, then make it easier for me to get into the ’92, ’94,’98 and 2002 Winter Olympics and I could have got better and better at ski jumping.
‘I never had any idea I would be come “Eddie The Eagle” and I’d end up spending three or four years doing that kind of stuff.’
Eddie reveals that the deal for the film was actually signed 18 years ago.
‘The script has been tweaked a number of times over the years depending on who they thought was going to play me. They were looking at people like Robbie Williams, Rupert Grint, Steve Coogan originally, and they got Taron Egerton in the end and he did a brilliant job, he looked and sounded just like me 29 years ago.’
He’s been in and out of the spotlight since ’88, being a popstar in Finland, getting a law degree, appearing on the occasional reality TV show like Splash. But he never did get to jump in another Olympics.
Does he still follow the sport?
‘Not really,’ he admits, ‘I’ve been so busy doing other things – getting married, having kids, getting divorced, doing my building work, doing PR work, and because they don’t really show it on TV here. I only really get to see it when I’m in Europe working.’
Eddie believes the reason for his enduring popularity is down to what his Olympic appearance embodied.
‘A big reason why people loved my being at Calgary was that I exemplified that Olympic spirit.
‘I was this tiny little David of a country against these Goliath nations of ski jumping, and people thought “Wow, this is what the Olympics should be all about”.
‘I was doing the best I could with what I had.
‘We had no snow, no ski jump, no trainers, no equipment, no sponsorship and people loved the motives and ideals behind it.
‘It was so powerful that people still remember it fondly.’
(Matti Nykänen of Finland won gold in both the 70m and 90m events at the 1988 Winter Olympics.)
Eddie EDWARDS: TRY HARD
The Kings Theatre, Southsea
Sunday, May 28