Michael “Eddie the Eagle” Edwards surprised everyone by representing Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping in the 1988 Olympics in Calgary. Though he finished last in the event, he became beloved by the public who saw him as an underdog because he lacked both the skill and funds to be a posh Olympic athlete. Now, Hugh Jackman and Taron Egerton star in a new movie about his life called Eddie the Eagle. Here are 18 things about the unconventional skier not included in the movie.
1. Eddie started as a pretty decent downhill skier
When Edwards failed to make his country’s downhill ski team in the 1984 Olympics, he turned his focus to ski jumping to follow his Olympic dream, since there were no other ski jumpers competing on behalf of Great Britain. The fact that he was 20 pounds heavier than the average ski jumper did not deter him.
2. Extremely farsighted
Due to vision problems, Edwards was forced to wear eyeglasses at all times. His glasses often fogged up beneath his goggles, rendering him nearly blind during his jumps.
3. He earned many nicknames
His nicknames included “Mr. Magoo,” “ski dropper,” “Inspector Clouseau on skis,” “Abominable Snowman” and “Unsteady Eddie.” However, it was at the Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony when the president of the organizing committee, Frank King, said, “At these Games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records and some of you have even soared like an eagle,” clearly referring to Eddie, who’s been known as Eddie the Eagle ever since.
4. Lived briefly in a Finnish mental asylum
Eddie wasn’t mentally ill, but rather, the asylum had the cheapest room and that was all he could afford.
5. Jumped in secondhand gear
Because he had no money and no sponsors, Eddie collected most of his ski gear from the lost and found. At one point, the piece of string holding his helmet together broke and it bounced off his head into the trees.
6. Torchbearer in 2010
Edwards dutifully carried the Olympic torch relay in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
7. Cool Runnings inspired producer to make Eddie the Eagle
Movie producer Matthew Vaughn showed his kids the film Cool Runnings, about the Jamaican bobsled team who were another group of athletic underdogs, also from the 1988 Olympics. His kids adored Cool Runnings and he thought they would also love Eddie the Eagle, so he gave the film a green light.
8. Eddie rode a zip line with a member of the Jamaican bobsled team
In 2008, Edwards returned to Calgary to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1988 game and did a zip line with Devon Harris from the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team. Their underdog story was immortalized in the film Cool Runnings.
9. Eddie wrote a book in 1999
Edwards released a book (and a video) called On the Piste with Eddie Edwards. Piste is the French word for ski trail or run.
10. Plastic surgery
Known for having a prominent chin, a dentist reset Eddie’s lower jaw and realigned his bite so it no longer juts out. He also traveled to Budapest to have his teeth done.
11. Laser surgery on his eyes
To promote his business, a laser eye surgeon performed free surgery on Eddie to correct his farsightedness, so he no longer needs those Coke-bottle glasses. He hasn’t gotten rid of the glasses, however. He told the Daily Mail, “I’ve kept them and I will put them on if people want it. People expect to see me in them. It’s daft, really, because I can’t see through them, but I don’t like to disappoint.”
12. Eddie’s had numerous marriage proposals
Despite his awkward looks before all the upgrades, Eddie claims he had lots of interest from the ladies. He told the Daily Mail, “Women used to write to me and say, ‘If you are ever in the Birmingham area, pop over.’ Weird. Sadly, my sister used to run my fan club, so I never saw a lot of those. She whisked them out! There were also a lot of women in nightclubs when I was doing personal appearances. That was crazy. Before, I’d never once talked to a woman in a nightclub. It just wouldn’t have happened.”
13. Eddie’s now happily married with two kids
Eddie now lives in the quaint village of Woodchester with his wife, Samantha, and his two daughters Ottilie and Honey.
14. Eddie became a singer
Eddie recorded two songs in Finnish, despite not speaking the language. The first was called “Eddien Siivellä,” or “Fly Eddie Fly.” The second was called “Mun Nimeni On Eetu” or “My Name is Eddie,” and it reached No. 2 on the Finnish pop charts. Edwards even went on tour.
15. He declared bankruptcy in 1992
Eddie claims a trusteeship that was supposed to invest his income misused his money, leaving him with nothing. Dealing with the legal system, however, inspired him to go back to school and earn a law degree.
16. Appeared on the celebrity diving show Splash!
Because he’s a great acrobat and totally fearless, Eddie did very well on the high dive.
17. His latest obsession is dancing
Eddie goes dancing up to four nights a week, and loves swing and jazz.
18. He channeled Austin Powers for a British dancing show
Eddie the Eagle opens Feb. 25.