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How Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards Became An Unlikely Olympic Hero, And What Happened Next

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The Winter Olympics are here again, and that means the world is being introduced to a new group of young and inspiring athletes.

But some of the most memorable Olympic stories aren't about triumph and gold medals. Take the story of Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards for example.

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Edwards was a construction worker from Cheltenham, England who failed to qualify for the Olympics as a downhill skier. Instead of giving up on his Olympic dream, Edwards switched to ski jumping.

Ski jumping is a highly competitive sport, but at the time Edwards was the only British athlete competing in it. After placing 55th at the world championships, he automatically qualified to represent Great Britain at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary.

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Edwards wasn't just an unlikely Olympic athlete, he was the very definition of an underdog:

When he learned he had qualified for the Olympics, he was living in a mental institution in Finland - the only place he could afford to stay.

Edwards had to wear six pairs of socks to fit into his borrowed ski boots, and he was 20 pounds heavier than the other ski jumpers.

He also funded his journey to the Olympic games himself, but the biggest difference between Edwards and the other ski jumpers was his eyesight.

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Edwards was so nearsighted he had to wear his coke-bottle glasses underneath his bright pink ski goggles, and they were constantly fogging up before his jumps.

In spite of all these setbacks, Edwards made it to the Olympics. But his story was about to take another strange turn.

News about "the Eagle" and his incredible story of adversity spread quickly, and his events in Calgary were mobbed by cheering fans.

Fans watch Edwards jump at the 1988 Olympics.Bettman

Rumors about Edwards spread through the crowd, and soon the ski jumper says his story was "embroidered with falsehoods."

Take the story that Edwards was afraid of heights, which was widely reported by the media. As Edwards says himself, "I was doing sixty jumps a day then, which is hardly something someone who was afraid of heights would do."

In the end, this inspiring Olympic story fell flat. Edwards finished dead last in both his events, but fans still admired his Olympic spirit.

Edwards even managed to set an Olympic record: as the only British ski jumper, he set the country's Olympic ski jump record.

Edwards poses with Taron Egerton, who played him in 'Eddie the Eagle.'Marvelll

The Eagle capitalized on his fame with appearances on talk shows, and a movie about his life was made in 2016. But Edwards's lasting legacy is ironically the rule that ended his career.

The Olympic Committee was so embarassed that an amateur like Edwards qualified that they passed "the Eddie the Eagle Rule" in 1990.

Edwards today.Redux

Only athletes who made the top 50 or top 30% in their sport would qualify for the Olympics. That rule kept Edwards from qualifying for the games ever again, but his remarkable story lives on, and still inspires a new generation of ski jumpers.

Do you remember watching Eddie?

[H/T: Smithsonian, Guardian]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com