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Leisure Management - Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, Olympic ski jumper

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Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, Olympic ski jumper

Olympic ski jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards became Great Britain’s first Olympic ski jumper since 1929, representing the country at the Calgary Winter Games in 1988. Following the success of the 2016 film Eddie the Eagle, his story is now reaching a new, younger audience and the Olympian has been busy visiting schools and universities, inspiring students with his never-say-die attitude. We talk to Eddie about how sport has transformed his life

Eddie Edwards does 20 to 30 talks a year to encourage kids into sport
Chill FactorE encourages children to learn to ski © shutterstock/i gorillaimages
Edwards in action at the 1988 Winter Olympics – his life has inspired a Hollywood film

Where did your ambitions come from?
My dream to get the Winter Olympics started when I was eight years old. I loved watching sport on TV, especially the popular sports show Ski Sunday.

When I was 13, I went on a school skiing trip to the Italian Dolomites and luckily enough, just 10 miles away in Gloucester, I had access to one of the biggest dry ski slopes in the country where I could practice and have a few lessons. I did my first ski jump on the school ski trip, which I did as a dare after only skiing for a day and a half. Just 11 years later, my love for the sport took me to the Winter Olympics.

Have you always been determined?
I’ve always loved proving people wrong. Since I was a boy, people were always telling me I couldn’t do things.

In my life as a skier, the more people told me I couldn’t do something, the more it inspired me to prove them wrong and I proved everybody wrong when I went to the Winter Olympics in Calgary.

What have been your enduring memories of the 1988 Games?
A memory that will never leave me is sitting on the bar, high on top of the 120m ski jump and there were 90,000 people in the arena, all chanting ‘Eddie, Eddie’. It was such a special moment for me and even now 30 years later, it still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end when I think about it.

How has having a strong mental attitude been a factor in your career?
In ski jumping, you can’t have any doubts whatsoever. When you’re sitting 550ft up, on the bar of a 120m jump, you just want to jump the furthest you can. To achieve that, you will risk more than you’ve ever risked before.

If you get any part of the take-off sequence wrong, the consequences can be horrendous and if there’s any doubt in your mind, that will magnify as you start to head off down the jump.

I’ve always had great self-belief and even now I still get just as excited when I put on a pair of skis as I did when I first started 40 years ago. I just love the sport and I was very lucky to find something that I was so passionate about.

What is your current involvement in the sport?
Although I’m no longer involved in British skiing, I still ski and continue to undertake promotions for various initiatives. I’ve worked with the Chill FactorE, the UK’s longest indoor ski slope in Manchester, to encourage 6- to-18-year-olds into the sport. I’ve also supported Sport England and get involved in 20 to 30 talks a year, visiting schools and universities to talk about the importance of never giving up and of following your sporting ambitions.

I’d like to see skiing become a more accessible sport. It seems very little has changed since I first started, so there needs to be far more investment in grassroots participation and it’s an ideal time to start afresh.

Dry slopes and indoor slopes are great for getting more people involved, but it has to be affordable and more inclusive.

What would you do to ensure more people get involved in skiing at grassroots level?
We hear a lot about the Olympic legacy and I would love to see more people taking up the sport. In the UK, we don’t have a ski jump or ski jump centre but it’s something that I’d like to see in the future, so we can start investing in homegrown talent.

With the right facilities, I believe in 10 years, we would have some world-class ski jumpers and it’s something I’m looking at getting involved in for the future.

Originally published in Sports Management 2018 issue 2
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14 Nov 2018 issue 117

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