I think it was his under-dogged determination in the face of humiliation and possible death. Michael Edwards, aka “Eddie the Eagle,” made his claim to fame by entering, surviving, and coming in way under everyone else as last place “loser” in each ski-jumping event he entered at the 1988 Winter Olympics, but the fans went wild! Why?? Well, for a lot of reasons! Eddie was pretty much totally self-funded and chronically broke. When he broke his jaw in a skiing accident, he tied it up with a pillowcase and continued working instead of being treated at a hospital. He wore 6 pairs of stockings to make his feet fit in hand-me-down boots. Eddie was terribly far-sighted, and his glasses would fog up under his googles at altitude when he was trying to jump. Eddie really was clumsy: When landing in Calgary for the 1988 Olympic Games, He ran into the door and broke some of his gear, thereafter being dubbed “Mr. Magoo” as well as “Eddie the Eagle.” Although it’s true that he finished last in both of his jumps in the Calgary Olympics, he did beat his own personal record and set a new record for Great Britain (who hadn’t had a jumper since 1928). Eddie is now 52, and although he says he’s a fan of the movie, he also commented to BBC in an interview that only about 5% of the movie was accurate. Perhaps the most disappointing fiction to me was that Eddie was tutored in ski jumping at Lake Placid by two Americans, which is all well and good, but the redemptive story of a fabulous athlete who “blew it” in his youth and then became a winning coach did not occur. However, the one aspect of the movie that is most accurate is also most compelling: Eddie won the hearts of the people because he represented the average guy who succeeded in his goal— without wealth or education—simply through sheer guts and determination. Since the Olympics, Eddie has become a folk hero, giving motivational speeches and inspiring others never to give up on their dreams. As is quoted in the movie (and was true), at the closing ceremony, Frank King (president of the organizing committee) gave this tribute to Eddie the Eagle: “At these games, some competitors have won gold, some have broken records, and some of you have even soared like an eagle.”
(Just for the record: In the 70-meter: Eddie scored 69.2. The next lowest was Bernat Sola Pujol from Spain at 140.4, and Matti Nykänen from Finland scored 229.1 points. Sometimes it really is what’s in the heart that counts!)
“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).