Eddie started out as a downhill skiier and almost qualified for the 1984 Olympics. When that didn't happen, he moved to Lake Placid to train but eventually ran out of money. So, to keep costs down and his Olympic dream alive, he switched to ski jumping. He had to wear six layers of socks to make his boots fit; he was 20 pounds heavier than any of his competitors; he was so farsighted that he had to wear his glasses at all times (even though they fogged so badly while he was skiing that he couldn't see anything anyway); and he was entirely self-funded. He competed in the 1987 World Championships and ranked 55th in the world, which qualified him for the Olympics. How? Lol I'm pretty sure no one really knows. When he found out about his qualification, Eddie was working as a plasterer and living in a Finnish mental hospital because he couldn't afford to live anywhere else (not as a patient, though how great a story would that be?!) Talk about a regular guy, huh?
At the 1988 Olympics, Eddie competed in both the 70m and 90m events... and finished dead last in both. But hilariously, the worse he did, the more popular he became. People loved him. He became one of those endearing "plucky underdogs" or "heroic failures," and is still somewhat of a celebrity figure in the U.K. In 2008 he was invited back to Calgary to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Olympics there, and he rode the zip-line at Olympic park with a member of the Jamaican bobsled team (YESSSSS). And when the Olympics came to Vancouver in 2010, Eddie was a torchbearer.
Is that not the greatest? Because I'm pretty sure that's the greatest.
Eddie also became such a phenom that the sport of ski jumping was embarrassed by the mockery being made of it (seriously). So, in 1990, the IOC instituted the Eddie the Eagle Rule (seriously) which requires Olympic hopefuls to compete in international events and place in the top 30 percent or the top 50 competitors, whichever is fewer. In effect, Eddie prevented himself from qualifying from any future Olympics (seriously) and ensured that there'd never be a ski jumper like him at the Olympics ever again.
Between Eddie and the Jamaican bobsled team, I have to wonder if there was something in the water in Calgary or something. But considering it gave us bobsledders from a Caribbean island and a ski jumper that dropped like a stone, you won't see me complaining!