Michael Edwards - How to be an Olympic competitor without being a famous athlete

Posted on Mar 11, 2022      62

Michael Edwards was born in 1963 in Cheltenham, southwest England. As a young boy, he set his sights on becoming an Olympic competitor. He tried many sports to achieve his dream, but for many years failed. For example, playing in a children’s soccer team in his city, got a severe knee injury. Then Michael switched to alpine skiing, performed well, but could not get on the national team of his country.

In 1984, Michael watched the Sarajevo Winter Games on TV, and became interested in the new sport of ski jumping. He joined the ranks of the “flying skiers,” but was saddened to learn that no one in Great Britain practiced this sport. However, frustration was short-lived. Michael was the first.

Except that in England, the snow falls infrequently, and normal ski jumps are also not. Had to go to Finland. By that time, Michael Edwards was working as a plasterer. He had the money for the trip, but he had a hard time with lodging. He rent a corner for a nominal fee in a ... psychiatric clinic and finally began training.

Soon Michael was competing in international tournaments, which was not surprising - he had no competitors in his own country. Although he always finished last, time after time he set new British records, and in 1988 he even received an invitation to the Games in Calgary as the strongest, though the only British ski jumper.

Michael achieved little success at the Games, taking his usual last place. But he was greeted with applause and interviewed by journalists all over the place. Edwards’ result was only 69 m, while Matti Nykänen, a Finn who had won the Games, flew over 200 m. Despite this, Edwards is still the strongest ski jumper in his country. He had no followers. By the way, fans nicknamed the athlete Eddie the Eagle Edwards.

After Eddie Edwards took part in the Calgary Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee adopted a rule that became known as the “Eddie Eagle Rule”, which stated that an athlete who qualifies for the Olympics must first establish himself in other international competitions (European or World Championships) and rank either in the top 50 at those events or in the top 30% of the events (depending on the number of participants). This new rule closed the way to the Games to those athletes who, being the best in their homeland, were no good compared with their competitors from other countries.

Incidentally, Michael Edwards was not the only one who got into big sports in such an unusual way. Even earlier, the Spaniard Fernandez Gomez had become a true “star” of the speed skating sport. A resident of the southern country at 25 learned to stand on skates, organized several Spanish championships, in which he was the only participant, and went to conquer the heights of the world. The stands exploded with delight as Gomez moved his feet leisurely across the ice track. One day, he lacked the funds to travel from Madrid to Oslo for the world championships. But the fans all over the world decided that the World Cup without Gomez was impossible: money transfers flew in from all over the world to his name. On February 20, 1982, in Assen, Netherlands, Gomez took part in it, taking the last 33rd place.