“It was the sparks flying off the bottom of the skis, I couldn’t see how he was going to be able to stop!” Pewsey Vale Assistant Head Chantal Dean’s own personal moment of Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards inspiration, recalled as she introduced Eddie to the Pewsey Vale audience. A lasting childhood memory that exemplified his ‘never say die’ approach and drive to achieve.
Britain’s hero of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Ski Jumper Eddie Edwards delivered a rousing talk to a packed hall at Pewsey Vale School last week (Tuesday 14 January) to kick off their Lecture series of ‘Inspiration’.
Who better to tell a story of dreams and ultimate achievement with every possible set of odds stacked against at every turn?
Achieve? Not in terms of Gold Medal glory but certainly in terms of turning a dream into reality, where a young boy from Gloucestershire decided that he wanted to compete in the Olympics.
‘Eddie the Eagle’ became a household name in the late eighties when as Britain’s only Olympic Ski Jumper he took on the most dangerous and challenging event of all – the 90 metre ski jump – with minimal resource, back-up, let alone experience, but with untold quantities of doggedness and determination. And he delivered.
The audience at Pewsey Vale School were entranced by Eddie’s story. If he could do it, so could any of them. If Pewsey, or any of the nearby towns had a ski slope it would have become very busy from Wednesday onwards.
Always a daredevil, Eddie’s dream of Olympic glory started young. It was a school ski trip to Italy when he was in today’s Year 9 that made him see that Skiing was his sport, his route to the Olympics. Money, or lack of it wasn’t going to stop him, nor was anything else.
Years spent on the slopes of his local Ski Centre in Gloucester, taking every opportunity to spend as much time learning ski technique started to pay off when he began to win in competition. He was invited to join the England Alpine Ski Team, but that was short-lived as he didn’t fit in. His equipment was old and second-hand, he didn’t have the latest designer gear – irrespective of talent or ability he wasn’t what the team management wanted.
Realising that skill alone wasn’t enough to achieve in a popular area of sport he decided to go down a very different, and infinitely more dangerous route – ski jumping.
Not a sport for anyone from Great Britain, and not one that could be practised here, and not one that could be embraced with no money. Insurmountable obstacles to just about everyone, but not ones that would deter Eddie.
Against all the odds Eddie managed to achieve selection to represent the Great Britain team as sole Ski Jumper at the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988. His efforts, appearance and story caught the imagination of the World, and whilst his achievements didn’t deliver in terms of records or medals his presence, attitude and sheer dogged belief turned him into a hero and ‘Eddie The Eagle’ was born….
Eddie returned a superstar, but not one to hide away and this is where Chantal Dean’s memory comes in. Years after Calgary he was invited to do a personal appearance at her local ski club, not just to deliver a rousing talk as he did to the Pewsey Vale audience rather to jump over several cars on a makeshift ski jump with minimal advance warning and even less safety assessment or preparation in case something went wrong.
It didn’t, he managed to clear all the cars and stop without disaster and that moment stayed with Chantal Dean. Inspiring her to compete and face challenges that otherwise she might have avoided.
That was the clear message delivered by Eddie Edwards: you have to hold on to your dreams and that “only you can make your dreams come true”. “Nothing I like better than proving people wrong” “The more you’re told No, the more inspired you become”.
The theme of ‘Inspiration’ is at the core of a series of Pewsey Vale School lectures embracing the ‘Compass for Life’ programme which is about giving young people a compass to help them to navigate through the challenges they will face through life.
The school have fully embraced the use of the programme for all students including identifying their personal ‘Super North Stars’ (their big dreams goals and ambitions). One pupil from Year 7 identified her Super North Star as becoming a professional skier. What better person for her to talk to that Britain’s only Olympic Ski Jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards?