Ivan Watson, dinosaurs history. It gives me enormous happiness to talk to a man that was a legend when I was young, an absolute legend, Eddie the Eagle. Michael Edwards earned the nickname Eddie the Eagle in the international press. I mean, this guy was world famous as a ski jump in the 1988 Olympics. He was the first person to represent Great Britain in the Olympic ski jump since nineteen twenty eight. And he wowed the world, finishing last in the 70 meters and last in the 90 meters.
But he did break the British ski jumping record. The man's a legend, he became a kind of worldwide phenomenon at the time. People a certain age will remember him very well, like me. And then he's had a renaissance recently because they made a film about twenty sixteen, Eddie the Eagle, and he's done all sorts of UK based reality shows, all of which he's performed very well. And he is one of the most Xen nicest, most relaxed and wise celebrities I have ever met or interviewed.
He's as happy in the public eye as he is plastering, which he does to make a living when money from other engagements runs out. He has a wonderful attitude to life. And so it was a huge honor to catch up with him and ask him about those events back in February 1988, when almost overnight he became one of the world's most recognized figures. Completely extraordinary story. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did when I had it.
Got to go back and watch some history shows if he can do so. History dot TV. Once you're history at dot TV, you can watch hundreds of hours of documentaries about all these back episodes. The podcast that adds it's a one stop shop for history. Lovers are going to check it out. And if you really want to ramp up the history interaction, come to our life tool history at dot com slash talk. We're talking some of the world's best historians and we will be learning about the history of the cities in which we find ourselves that particular night.
It's going to be awesome history at Dotcom. In the meantime, everybody here is Eddie the Eagle.
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Marzuk, it's nice to be here. Thank you very much. You captured the imagination of the entire world. Does it feel like a dream that whole period of your life?
Yeah, it still to this day feels very strange because it was not something I set out to do. All I want you to do is go to the Olympic Games, compete in the ski jumping, get a little bit of attention from the media, from the UK. And then I was hoping to turn that attention into sponsorship and then go to the ninety to ninety four, ninety eight to two thousand two Olympics and carry on. I didn't know that I was going to get Chris and I did go and then capture everybody's imagination and it exploded.
And to this day I'm Canadian Eagle and it's very nice, but it was totally unexpected but lovely.
Did you always have a passion for winter sports, you know, brought up in the mountains? Have it all begin for you?
Well, I'm from Cotswold, so we're a bit hilly. We do get a bit of snow occasionally, but I was very lucky. I have a local ski slope, which is one of the biggest in the country, Dostoevski Centre. I love watching Ski Sunday when I was a kid. And then I went on a school ski trip and then goes to ski center, became my home and I loved it. I did all sports when I was a kid, but it wasn't until I started skiing and I thought, wow, this is such a fantastic sport and I'm just as excited to go skiing now as when I started, you know, over 40 years ago.
And I'm a big skier still. Oh, yes. I still love my skiing. I'm not going away this winter, obviously, because of Coatbridge, but I do try and go away at least once a year. But sometimes I could be away 10 or 11 weeks of the year skiing. So, yeah, I still love it. And I want to be skiing on my one 100th birthday. And I'll bet you a really good skier. Well, I wouldn't say that if anybody asks me, I just say, no, I'm an average skier, but I still love it.
And I can still do a lot of things and I can still do the same things that I used to do when I was 20 years old. So I still enjoy it.
And why did you go for jumping? Presumably you just wanted to compete. You was jumping the one that took you finally or did you think that was where the opportunity was?
Well, originally I was into racing alpine ski racing. I was doing slalom, giant slalom, super G downhill. I was in America racing internationally and I ran out of money and I couldn't afford to carry on racing. It was way too expensive. I saw ski jumping and it was still skiing, but it was a lot cheaper for me to do. So is an economic decision really. And I started ski jumping on the very, very small jumps and work my way up to the big ones.
And then I discovered that nobody really been a ski jump from Great Britain. Then I carried on and they set a qualification for Calgary and I managed to reach it and they let me go. And then it all went haywire. That that's how it all happened.
This is a long time before government funding or lottery funded sports bursaries or whatever they call. I mean, how did you support yourself when you were back in the early days of jumping? Very, very difficult. Although I was a skier and skiing is very much a minority sport in Great Britain and trying to get sponsorship is very, very difficult. And I just did the best I could. I was a plasterer with my dad, so my dad gave me some money.
I would work with him for a few weeks, make as much money as I could, and then my mom would let me borrow her car. I would drive into Europe, and then I would make that money last as long as possible. And I slept in the car. I slept in cowshed. As I slept in barns. I slept in mental hospitals. I slept in a tent. I did all kinds of things just to make my money go as far as I possibly could.
And then I got little jobs here and there as well, working in hotels, washing up, scrubbing floors, shoveling snow, waiting tables to get a bit of money or a bit of food. And I did it that way and carried on my skiing and that obviously my ski jumping. Did you love it? Was it worth it? I loved it. It was such a great way to do it. And I don't regret it at all because it made me into the person I am today.
And I'm really appreciative of the things I receive and the kindness I get from people. And it was such a great way to do it. And I loved it. I loved every second of it.
When did the Olympics become feasible? Because this was a time when people just didn't send anyone to the Winter Olympics. I'm half Canadian, so we used to watch it off and my schoolmates, although we didn't even market it well even now.
Great Britain only sent about 50 athletes to the Winter Olympics because we're not really a winter nation. We do have a bit of a history years ago. And figure skaters, Robin Cousins, Tobel indeed and people before then. And we have a couple of good bobsledders occasionally with the army that we've done very well with the skeleton and luge and things. And of course, in Scotland we do curling, but generally speaking, with our intonation. So that was part of the appeal, really.
I love my skiing, I loved all sports, but especially skiing. And I thought, let me go with that. And it's such a great sport. I still love to watch skiing to this day on TV.
How is it worth the winter? Because you have to hit a qualifying distance or time, do you, in a qualifying event.
Yeah, with ski jumping, I had to reach a certain distance in a World Cup competition and I did that in December of nineteen eighty seven. And then I was written a letter in the January of nineteen eighty eight. But at the time when I received the letter I was in a mental hospital in Finland. I was up there ski jumping training and I had nowhere to stay. And they let me stay in this mental hospital because they were renovating one of the wings of the hospital.
I rang my mum and she said, I've got this letter for you. And she opened it and she said, My God, you've been you're going to the Olympic Games. And that was it. I came out of that mental hospital, flew home to London, picked up my uniform, went to Steamboat Springs in Colorado to train with the US team and then straight to Calgary to compete. So it was amazing, amazing time.
It became a fun thing to laugh about. But you were a good ski jump. Are you in the top hundred in the world? You deserve to be there.
I was very much a beginner when I went to Calgary because I don't even jump for 20 months. Everybody else there at the Olympics have been jumping for 20 years. So there was no way that I was going to beat anybody. But for me, getting there was the greatest thing with my gold medal, really. But I was still very much a beginner. But I was hoping by getting some attention and getting some sponsorship over the next 10, 20 years, I could have been a really, really good ski jumper.
Unfortunately, I got so much attention at Calgary to the extent where I got more attention than the guy who won the event. They didn't like the fact that a guy who came fifty eight was getting more attention. They brought out these new rules and effectively kicked me out of the sport so I wasn't able to reach quite the potential that I wanted to, but it was still great fun doing it.
Well, we'll come to that terrifying end of the story. But just tell me about the game. I spent a lot of time in Calgary and the ski jump dominates the city as you drive west towards the Rocky Mountains. I know so well. What was it like going to the beach? Was the experience like?
Oh, it was magic. It was like a circus. It was fantastic. And the Calgarians were so proud of hosting an Olympic Games. It was a fantastic experience. From the moment you land at Calgary Airport, going to the Olympic Games to the moment you leave, it was just fantastic. We had great facilities at the university where they became the athletes village. We had everything that we needed to do our training. Of course, I was going to the ski jumps every day to try and ski jump, but it was often very windy parties.
Every night the whole center of Calgary was just one big party every night with Olympic ceremonies and medal ceremonies and all that kind of thing. And it was just tremendous. And I loved every second of being that.
His dad knows history. I'm talking to Eddie Eagle more after this. Hello, this is David Runciman, and I want to tell you about the new series of talking politics, history of ideas. This time I'll be looking at the thinkers who ripped the mask of modern politics to show us what was really going on from Rousseau to Rosa Luxemburg, stories of inequality, suffering, revolution and change, a history of political thinking for a world emerging from lockdown and wondering what comes next.
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Don't miss this out people this is special offer get involved. Hello Fresh America's number one meal kit. Bean counters, Funtown, when did things get weird, when did things start? I mean, one minute you're just a competing athlete, the next minute you're a global superstar. What happened?
I think it was the press conference at Calgary. They did it in a Saddledome in downtown Calgary. And I couldn't get into my press conference because the security guards wouldn't let me in. And then what I eventually managed to get into this press conference. I had 700 hundred people from the media, from all over the world, and I said, I'm sorry I'm late, but the security guard wouldn't let me in because he said I didn't look like an athlete.
And of course, they rolled with laughter. And then I told them all about my life as a ski jumper and the experiences that I had and the places in which I find myself like the mental hospital and things. And it just exploded. And of course, when I arrived in Calgary, I was walking through the airport and there was a great big banner on the wall saying, Welcome to Calgary, the Eagle. And I said, wow. I said, Who's that?
And they said it to you? And that was it. I got christened Teddy Beagle and it just exploded. And I've been doing that ever since.
So why why did they pick you out? Was it just because they heard that you were a novice jumper managed to qualify?
Yes, I think it was because I did an interview with the BBC nine o'clock news two weeks before Calgary, and I said on 88 and I'm going to be Britain's first ever Olympic ski jumper. And I said to all you people out there who I asked the sponsorship and you didn't give it to me. I said, I got there without your help. And they got such a response from the interview in the U.K. and then they sent it to Calgary and they showed it on Canadian television.
And I thought, oh, my God, this guy from Great Britain, he's got no snow, no ski jumps, no money, no training or equipment. And yet he's doing this really dangerous sport of ski jumping. And they just loved it. And they really took on board what I was trying to achieve and what I was doing. And they loved every second of it, just like I did doing it, to be honest, all the time.
She was it good fun to actually distract you? Was it harmful, do you think? Looking back?
Sometimes it was a little bit distracting, but I was still able to go off and do some training. There was a little ski jump in Norway near camp, and I was nipping out there when it was too windy to jump in Calgary always nipping in a car and going to Norway and doing some jumping there.
And I know very well I used to work in Canmore every summer when I was a student. Oh, yes, that's right. Yeah. You can go and do the cross-country stuff. Yeah, I always get a little bit of training in there, but the bigger picture, it was fantastic. I didn't know that I was going to get the attention that I got and I just rolled with it. I just went with the flow. I enjoyed it while it lasted.
It was a good opportunity to be able to jump was just how you the egos must have been bruised. No, no. In fact, ninety percent of the jumpers loved it. They were saying, this is fantastic. All this attention that is being thrust upon me was also being thrust upon the sport of ski jumping. And they said, this is wonderful. More people want you to watch it, more people want you to do it. More companies want you to put money into it.
It was just one or two the best jumpers who didn't like it. They said, I'm the best jumper in the world. I should be the most popular. But most of the others loved it. They said it was great.
And who's heard of Matti Nikken? And now he died last year, unfortunately, poor guy. But he was actually quite nice because he didn't like the media. And so he was really appreciative of the fact that I was taking all the media attention away from him because he didn't really like talking to the media. So he loved it.
Oh, sorry. Huge. Well, apologies to Martin, his family, the whole thing. It was a shame.
It was quite a shock because he's my age and he died. Yeah, eighteen months ago. But he's had a tough life with drink and drugs and all that kind of thing. But let's say he was a great jumper this time.
Winning gold medals can ruin your life. It's nobody's quite up to be.
He dominated the sport for twenty odd years. And when everything you could win, nobody dominated the sport like Matadi did back in the early 1980s when it came to the jump. I remember I was ten years old. I was at home in the UK. I was watching my mum and tell us what happened. Oh, it was great.
It was a clear blue sky, a beautiful sunny day. There was no wind and there was ninety one thousand people in the stadium watching and about three or four competitors. Before I was due to go down, I could hear the crowd start to shout and they wanted me to jump. And I walked out there, put my skis on. I looked down to the US coach because he said he would fight me down. I looked for his flag and he waved and off I went the roar from the crowd.
Even though I was jumping through the air, I could hear the roar and I managed to jump at seventy one metres, which was a new British record. I jumped further in competition in Calgary than I ever did before, and I managed to land on my feet and I was very happy to land and they celebrated the whole achievement. It was great.
You didn't manage to win a medal in. Oh no, no. Fifty eight I think. Fifty eight. But that didn't matter to me. Getting there was the greatest thing.
And you ended up on every single television show around the world. But three years I. My feet didn't touch the ground, I was opening shopping centers, golf courses, phone rides, doing TV, radio shows, having a whale of a time.
The one thing you weren't doing was ski jumping, unfortunately.
Well, unfortunately, people in officialdom didn't like the fact that I got all the attention. They brought up these new rules in America. They call it the Eagle Rule, which effectively kicked me out of the sport. And athletes had to reach a certain standard to go to the Olympics, which I thought goes way against all the Olympic ideals, which was a shame, really. So it's very shortsighted of them. But what can you do?
Was annoying because the film version was made.
I mean, they made a film about I mean, what was that? Yes. Well, Calgary, they made two movies. They made Kooning's about the Jamaican bobsled team and then my film, Eddie the Eagle. So it was a great Olympics for the underdogs. Definitely. Yeah. To have a movie made about my life was amazing. I signed the deal to make that movie twenty one years ago. And then it was because I did splash about six years ago.
That was the impetus to make the film and they did such a great job making the film.
I love it, but I think you came across as a bit hapless and actually you weren't hapless. You were a good athlete. You weren't scared of heights. And what kind of stuff?
Well, not really. I'm a little bit more confident with heights than most people, but I was still scared. When I ski jump, you have to be scared because when you're nervous, you focus. You concentrate more because I knew that if I made a mistake, I would get hurt. So you have to be nervous. You have to be scared to do the sport. But the film really showed that through tenacity, through resilience and through never giving up, you can achieve great things and really capture the heart and spirit and essence of my story.
And they did it in such a nice way. I've seen the film so many times now and I think they did a wonderful job in capturing my life story as a ski jumper. Is it weird when you become one of the most famous people in the world when that tide slowly absol did you think it would go on forever or did you realize it's just a weird thing that would last for a few years and you might as well enjoy it?
Well, to be honest, I never really look that far ahead. It was great what happened in Calgary and I rode the way, went with the flow for a few years afterwards, three or four years, made as much money as I could have put it in the bank and things, but I was quite prepared. For me, the fame side was just a job and I knew that that job eventually would just get less and less and less from it.
But I had other things to fall back on my building, my construction, like a plastering, that kind of thing. And then when the film came out, I gave up my building and my plastering and and I've been traveling all over the world for the last four or five years doing talks at conferences and dinners and things like that. And in my spare time, I do a bit of posturing, know I enjoy doing it. But if it all ended tomorrow, I would be perfectly happy because I just love doing my plastering and my construction as much as I do my work and my skiing and my ski jumping.
So I just love doing everything.
And you make enough money to get a few little ski trips and every year. Absolutely, yeah.
I work with a couple of travel companies, so I try and get out between three and seven times a year skiing. I speak on cruises so I go on four or five cruises a year. I thought, what a great life, you know, and I do a bit of posturing, which keeps me fit to a bit of speaking. It's great. I think I've got the perfect lifestyle now. I can do what I want, when I want, how I want.
And it's perfect.
When you postering, do people know that it's a TV nowadays? I only do postering for friends and family. So if I've got friends who need some work, then I'll help them out. Well, I was I did have a bit of a problem years ago because people would ring me up and ask me to come and give them a quote just so that they could say, oh, you came to my house. That's when they didn't really want me to do any work and it was just wasting my time.
So nowadays I just do a bit of work for friends and family. Postering takes me fair. She keeps me grounded. A friend of mine is a builder and I was doing some plastering yesterday and I'll be doing some plastering tomorrow as well, but I still enjoy it. So I thought, why not? And also because my speaking because if we do my speaking work just died a death for the foreseeable future and it's just a nice little bit of pocket money coming in.
And I'm happy for the lessons he got from the rest of us.
It's always been both a global celebrity and a man who earns his living with his hands. Was Eddie the Eagle wisdom that we need to take away?
Oh, gosh, that would be hard. I think. Just be happy with your lot. If you enjoy doing what you're doing, you're in a perfect situation. It doesn't really matter how much you're earning. I think it's far more important. Do something you love doing than to do a job you hate, but you get paid well for. And as for sport, go for it. And even if people turn around and say it can't be done, you can't do it.
For me, that was like a red rag to a bull and I would try and prove them wrong. I like nothing better than proving people wrong. And I say, if you think you can do it, you go for it and ignore what everybody else says. Just do anything you like to do and go for it.
Really, the only surprise is left for us and in the years to come. Well, I don't know. Yeah, I surprised myself all the time when I did splash six years ago. I thought it'd be great if I could just reach the final and then I ended up winning the show, so I've got a few surprises in store, but I won't reveal them just yet. But I'm just up for whatever comes along. If I get invited to do something like strictly, I'll throw myself into that all dancing on ice.
I'll throw myself into that, have a lot of fun doing it and see what happens. But yeah, might surprise a few people. Thank you so much. Thanks for coming on. What's the best way for people to follow you students, actually? Well, I've got photographs on my website at the Eagle Ducote UK, and people can get in touch if they want me to come along and do a talk or things that I do a lot of oxygen.
Speaking of motivational talks and things like that. So, yeah, go to our website and get in touch.
Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.
Thank you, Helen. And our ability to create a strong bond in the history of our country. All of our and. Podcast, just a bit of a favor to ask. Totally understand, if you don't become a subscriber or pay me any cash, money makes sense. But if you could just do me a favor, it's for free. Go to iTunes or have your podcast. If you give it a five star rating and give it an absolutely glowing review, perjure yourself, give it a glowing review.
Really appreciate that stuff. Well, the law of the jungle out there and I need all the support I can get, so that will boost it up the charts. It's so tiresome. But if you could be very, very grateful. Thank you.