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Fans Angered that Eddie The Eagle Edwards is Grounded

February 1, 1992

LONDON (AP) _ The Eagle won’t be flying at the Winter Olympics this year.

Ski-jumper Eddie ″the Eagle″ Edwards, the goofy-looking last-place finisher at the 1988 Calgary Games, has been grounded by the British team.

Edwards became a cult hero in Calgary as the no-hoper who tried his best.

But he couldn’t jump far enough and British Olympic officials, believing he was little more than an embarrassment to the team, have left him behind for the Albertville Games.

Adding to his woes, Edwards recently filed for bankruptcy and is involved in legal action against the trust fund that looked after his estimated $630,000 earnings after Calgary.

His exclusion from the Olympics has upset Edwards and his fans.

″As far as I am concerned there is no Olympics now,″ said Edwards. ″It’s not the taking part that matters any more.″

″I was a breath of fresh air. I came along, in these great big thick glasses, with no money and no equipment. I had a smile on my face. I was a true Olympian,″ he said.

″I opened people’s eyes to the fact it doesn’t matter where you come as long as you do your best.″

The British team officials argued that competitors should go on merit. When it was announced Edwards was not on the team, people from all over the world wrote in to complain.

A woman from New South Wales, Australia, wrote to say Edwards was the real star because he entered the Olympics for the sheer enjoyment of the sport.

″I do not understand the reasoning behind your decision as you must realize what a great PR job he did for his country,″ wrote Nerida White.

Another Australian, Michael Patton from Sydney, wrote of ″a memory filled with humor and admiration for this man who made us laugh so much.″

That’s just what riled the British team officials because Edwards got all the attention last time while competitors in other events produced better performances.

So they changed the rules so that the qualification distance now is far beyond Edwards’ best jump.

″Those who represent Britain by wearing the official uniform are expected to have achieved certain standards,″ said British Olympic Association spokeswoman Caroline Searle.

John Leaning, an official of the British Ski Federation, pointed out that even two-time Olympic 1,500-meter track champion Sebastian Coe also was dropped for the last Games because he didn’t make the qualification time.

″Eddie has got to accept that sports have standards,″ he said. ″He also has a problem separating being an athlete from being a personality.″

One British newspaper, the tabloid Daily Mirror, even launched a campaign to get the team selectors to change their minds. Edwards even tried to contact Princess Anne, a former Olympic equestrian competitor who now is president of the BOA, to see if she could influence them.

″My technique is getting better and I am hoping to do a 100-meter jump this year in competition,″ said Edwards, whose British record is 72 meters. ″That would put me in the top 60.″

Edwards also believes he was not helped by all the attention he received in Calgary.

He was followed by crowds of people wearing Eddie the Eagle T-shirts and a group of scantily-dressed women known as ″The Eaglettes.″ He even was persuaded to make a record: ″Fly, Eddie, Fly.″

″There was a negative side to it. The press also made out that I was accident prone because I walked into a glass door at Calgary airport and people thought I was some sort of Mr. Magoo character,″ he said.

Edwards figures the blaze of publicity that followed him around was the real reason he has been left off the team.

″The British team officials were very, very embarrassed at the kind of publicity that was thrust upon me in Calgary and wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.

″I went to the Olympics to do my best.″ he said. ″Coming last wasn’t planned.″

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