WHITEFISH – The town of Whitefish has spent a lot of time this winter cheering on Maggie Voisin in her preparation leading up to the 2018 winter games. But the town also hosted a former Olympian in February to lead their Winter Carnival Grand Parade.
MTN News talked with Michael Edwards, an Olympic ski jumper who turned his unlikely childhood ski dreams into a reality.
Edwards was born in Cheltenham, England in 1963. He took a school ski trip one year and was fascinated with the sport ever since, racing in slalom and G.S. internationally. “That was the start of a wonderful 40 years of skiing and having fun,” said Edwards.
Edwards moved to Lake Placid and began to pursue the sport there. When he wasn’t skiing he was working for money or food to fuel his ski racing dreams.
“Cut grass in the summer, shovel snow, wait tables, a bit of washing up scrubbing floors all that kind of thing and I scarped food out of bins, I slept in the car, I slept in cow sheds. I did all kinds of things just so I could stay out there and carry on my skiing and then eventually my ski jumping,” said Edwards.
He ended up making the switch from ski racing to ski jumping because of the lower costs.
Edwards trained hard for years leading up to what he says in one of his proudest life moments, reaching the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, becoming Great Britain’s first an last ski jumper. He competed in — and finished last in — both the 70 meter and 90 meter events.
“I knew I wasn’t going to do very well. Because I had only been jumping for 20 months. Everybody else had been jumping for 20 years,” Edwards said.
However, fans loved him and his failures seemed to resonate with people around the globe. “For me just getting there was my gold medal and I was going to enjoy every single second of being at those Olympic games,” said Edwards.
He was cheered on throughout the games and after, became a media celebrity, earning himself the name Eddie the Eagle. Since those Olympic Games, he’s been traveling the world participating in various ski-related events.
This winter he came to Whitefish to be the Grand Marshal of the 59th annual Winter Carnival. Edwards spent the entire week here signing autographs, getting to know the community and even speaking to high school students.
It wasn’t just photo opportunities, talking to students, signing autographs and marching down Central Avenue as the most important person in the parade. Eddie the Eagle also got to do some skiing on Big Mountain with a fellow competitor from the 1988 Olympic Games — Whitefish’s own Hilary Lindh.
Lindh and Edwards carved up the mountain for a few hours and reminisced about the 1988 Calgary games. Edwards ended the week by rolling through the streets of Whitefish on one of the city’s biggest days, again hearing the people and fans calling his name.
Reporting by Jack Ginsburg for MTN News