Can you tell us about your role as a talent spotter for Chill Factore and how you became involved in the scheme?
I have become more and more involved with Chill Factore of late and they kindly approached me to be one of the judges for the scheme. As judges we are all different and will be bringing our own individual talents to the judging. Some will be looking more at the technical abilities of the skiers and boarders whereas I am looking more for a rounded picture , not just whether they are good skiers or boarders at the moment, but what potential they may have. So although they may not have been riding that long I am interested in how good they could become with a year of professional coaching on a weekly basis.
It's also important to me that they have a strong passion for the sport and the right attitude. Have they got that desire to be the best that they can be and also promote the sport in the right manner? Not just by being good they should also be engaging and approachable to the public.
What adversity did you have on your Olympic journey, and how do you believe things have changed for today's athlete?
Oh gosh, I skied at Gloucester ski centre and mum and dad could not afford for me to ski there, so I had to get a job working in the ski hire shop, which allowed me slope time for free. If we weren’t open I used to be climbing over the fence two hours before, where I would walk up the slope and ski, and then when the floodlights went down I would sneak on at night and ski, when you could just about see the slope. When I started training seriously I would do what it took to be near the slopes. Sleeping in cars, cow sheds and sleeping in mental hospitals in Finland. To fee myself I was raiding the local bins and cutting grass and shovelling snow to make enough to keep skiing and living. It sounds tough and it was but it was bloody good fun and getting to the Olympics was a dream come true.
I always had the ambition to be a professional skier and when this changed to the sport of ski jumping the means to stay in a resort environment were no less challenging. As represented in the film I faced quite a lot resentment from the old fashioned ski community and no support whatsoever. There was lots of back stabbing and cheap shots were common place in the sport but thankfully with age and experience you get to move past this kind of behaviour. So with a scheme like Chill Factore are running, I am hoping that today's youngsters will be able to get better quicker without making the sacrifices I had to go through in order to represent their country at their sport.
I see my role now as a mentor to them and to help them avoid the struggles I went through and that is why I am also looking for people that are not just technically good but are also nice. How nice people are is important to me as you need to be approachable to promote the sport in the best manner, this encourages others to take up the sport which is a key goal. People who are willing to give a bit back, talking to journalists and do a trick for the photographers are the people we are after. It’s promoting for them its promotion for the sport so I will look at all those angles.
I am not of the impression the journey to being a professional athlete is any easier these days with regulations, health and safety; you can't just turn up and climb onto a slope like I did. There is also the pressure of behaving and social media plays a big part for today’s athletes. Having a media profile is a great thing in someways as you can create your own brand these days, but it takes time and effort. In many ways access to the sport is easier with indoor slopes popping up all over the place, but it is still expensive for many.
An initiative like this means those at grass roots level who may be put off financially now have an opportunity to turn up show us what they have got and potentially have a whole year of free skiing / boarding to take them to the next level. I would excuse the pun jump at the chance to do that... I would like to see more slopes doing more initiatives like this.
If someone choose to follow your unusual path into ski jumping what advice would you give them and would it be possible in the UK?
It would be very difficult, we don’t have one at the moment and it's something I hope will be built in the future. We don't need snow to do this, the artificial slope in Europe are testament to that. So hopefully this is something we could build alongside a snow sports centre offering people the chance to try the sport.
Obviously competing at the Olympics was one of your main life goals and was such an inspiring story for all of us, but looking forward what life goals are you aiming towards these days? They are much more simple these days. Settling down finding the right partner and maybe some more kids. I still ski and will continue to ski as much as I can, and the PR side is still enjoyable so I will continue doing that but I still enjoy doing my building and plastering so will continue with that. As well as this I am into dancing so am always at the end of a phone if Strictly call. Also getting the film made was very exciting, but I never dreamed that 30 years after Calgary that there would be a hunger to make a film about my life.
It was a true honour that they felt my story was worth telling and I thought they did an excellent job. They kept very close to my life story adding a few creative flourishes here and there. I was also able to go out and visit the set and hang out with Hugh Jackman and watch them film a couple of scenes, combine that with the chance to attend nine different premieres around the world and it was a great experience.
You seem to be back in the spotlight over the last few years with your previous commentary work on The Jump, and your spoken word tour 'Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards - Try Hard', How was the experience of telling your life story and how did it go down with the audiences?
I was involved in the first few episodes of The Jump, but I didn’t like the way the competitors were being taught. I thought it was dangerous and bad for the sport, promoting it in the wrong way. People might have watched the show and be put off winter sports thinking they are too dangerous. People need to be realistic about getting into these sports, you can’t expect to be good straight away.
When you put people together with totally different experience levels you are looking for trouble, throw in a competition environment and people will push themselves way beyond their ability, so it’s inevitable they will be falling over and having accidents. The spoken word tour was great I did 21 dates across the country. Through a two hour talk I showed videos and photos and talked about the key moments of my life. I initially feared I would not have enough material to talk for two hours every night, but as I only brushed on the subject it was clear I could of really talked for five or six hours.
I have done lots of after dinner speaking and motivational talks, so I was quite well versed in how to speak to a crowd. In terms of the numbers we did quite well, we were playing in smaller theatres to around crowds of about four hundred so it was a nice atmosphere which felt quite intimate. So it’s really whetted my appetite for doing something again in a similar vein. Also in the future I may look into writing a new book.
Where are we likely to find you this winter and do you have any particular favourite resort to tell our readers about?
I am looking like I might be travelling quite a bit this winter. Italy, Austria, France, Canada and China are all on the cards. So potentially I could be out for most of the winter, which is not a bad life is it? Especially for a 53 year old plasterer! In terms of a favourite resort I loved my trip to Kicking Horse last winter it was 2-3 feet deep of the loveliest powder, the conditions were the best ever and the people were super friendly. I love Mayrhofen too it’s a great resort and I normally head out to Snowbombing every year which is a total blast. I also head out for the Altitude comedy festival some years, which is also a hoot.
Do you have any tips for preparing for the winter do you have a training regime for hitting the slopes?
I am normally riding in some dome or other once or twice a month so I am usually ok. But if you only do it once or twice a year, walking and running won’t harm your fitness and doing some pre slope practise at a dome such as the Chill Factore will help. Also don’t forget to get your insurance and get some clothing. In minus 20 conditions a twenty year old jacket might not be as warm as you imagine. Also get yourself a good playlist as some good tunes always make things more fun.
Many people would regard you as an inspirational figure who never gave up despite all the odds but who were your biggest influences growing up?
I used to love watching Ski Sunday religiously and my heroes back then were Ingemar Stenmark, Phil and Steve the Mahre twins and Bojan Krizaj. When I started the ski jumping I used to watch Goldberger amongst others
I would try and copy them and when I was in Norway I got the ski jumping machine which really helped with my progression. Before that in terms of my first ever trips, I went with school. We went to the Italian Dolomites and Bormio in Italy. Those were my first few trips and I was totally hooked so after that I was in Gloucester hitting the dry slope nearly every night.
As a snowboard publication could we ever convince you to swap your skis for a snowboard?
Well you never know. Whilst I was working at Tamworth in the 90’s I was known to strap in a couple of times and I have a mountain board for the summer so it's always something that I have had an interest in. But to give up the skis who knows, we will have to see what this winter brings!
Entering the Talent Spotting Competition
Entrants have until September 22, 2017 to apply for the talent spotting programme and must submit a 200-word written explanation about their future aspirations and why they have the passion and potential to realise their snow sports dream. Entries can be accompanied by photography or video content which shows personality and sporting prowess. Entries must be sent to [email protected].