Unless you’re related to Matti Nykänen, the only ski jumper who matters is Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards. The British Olympian became a folk hero at the 1988 Winter Games, finishing dead last in both jumping events. His nickname was absolutely ironic; intrigued viewers tuned in half expecting his every leap to end in disaster. After all, he’d taken up the sport just 20 months before the Calgary Olympics and qualified to compete because he was Great Britain’s first and only ski jumper. The Olympic motto is “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” but Edwards was none of the above—yet he still won the hearts of people who identified with his dream.
Edwards outshined many of the actual gold medalists at the Olympics. He subsequently became a celebrity, appearing on Johnny Carson and returning home to a hero’s welcome. His underdog story was long rumored to be movie fodder; back in 1996, he told the New York Times, “Of course, Robert Redford will have to play me—unless Demi Moore is my leading lady, in which case I will have to play myself.”