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10/02/2016 06:24 GMT | Updated 08/02/2017 05:12 GMT

At Last - the 'Eddie the Eagle' Film!

When the colourful Olympic ski jumper Michael "Eddie the Eagle" Edwards got the film distribution company behind the long-awaited movie of his lovable and brave - some would say foolhardy - exploits at the 1988 Canadian Winter Games Olympics, to organise an informal screening, he was more nervous than when he stood at the top of the 90m ski jump in Calgary, Alberta.

The film (could it be a coincidence that its UK premier would be on April 1?) stars Taron Egerton as Edwards, who bravely leapt into the void - albeit coming last. And to his relief, his most important audience were more than impressed. "They loved it," says Eddie. "I knew I'd come in for some stick of course, it was inevitable, but overall I think the filmmakers did a great job. They organised a viewing for 50 friends and family at a local viewing room in Cheltenham. I didn't really mind the film lampooning me because in a way I instigated that myself. My ski jumping wasn't going to set the world on fire after all, so only by acting the clown could I get the necessary sponsorship."

"The cinema was packed," says Simon Kelton, who wrote the story, co-wrote the screenplay and is a co-producer on the film. "They had to put armchairs in the aisles. Eddie was extremely nervous about how it would go down with his closest family and friends, but it was a cracking success. There wasn't a dry eye in the house."

The film attracted rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, although one American critic said: "It takes tremendous liberties with the actual facts (which are sometimes more colourful than the script's inventions)."

What the film doesn't really show is that Edwards may not have been a world ski-jumping champ, but is actually an expert skier. Konrad Bartelski, Britain's greatest ever World Cup downhiller, joined Eddie and Simon for a ski trip to St Anton, Austria. "l knew that before he took up ski jumping, Eddie had been a very good alpine skier," he said. "He was an enthusiastic and determined dry slope racer at the Gloucester Dry Ski slope, and good enough to be on the fringes of the England Alpine team. When he started ski jumping, I was his first sponsor, giving him his first pair of Atomic jumping skis. He really is an amazingly good skier - technically better than 90% of the people who pooh-pooed him during the Olympics. Eddie was brilliant company. I do love him - I'm his biggest supporter."

Said Eddie: "Skiing with Konrad was great - I'd known him 30 years and never skied with him!"

Kelton explained how Eddie combined extraordinary determination with a natural flair for entertainment, which endeared him to millions of people worldwide: "Eddie had pathological persistence and insane bravery which he combined with a delightful comedic clumsiness like Inspector Clouseau" he said. "He trained like a maniac, but was prepared to sleep in snowdrifts, under ping-pong tables, even in a high security Finnish mental asylum, which had a spare room! On arrival at the Olympics, he lost his Union Jack underpants down the Calgary airport baggage carousel and then walked straight into the glass exit doors in front of the world's press and legions of excited fans chanting his name. You couldn't make it up. He was a classic."

Meanwhile Eddie made something of a comeback before the movie of his life was released - alongside five winners of the Alp Leisure competition to raise money in aid of Ski 4 Cancer. Edwards was determined to launch himself from a 90 metre Olympic jump for the first time in over 20 years.

Declared the 'Unofficial British Ski Jumping Championships' by the organisers Chris and Lucie Learoyd of Alp Leisure, all five of the first-timers and their nine-year old son Louis managed to launch off the Olympic jump from the slightly safer height of 60 metres at the site used for the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville.

The participants won a prize to visit the French resort of Courchevel for a week's training and returned in January 2016 to jump. The winners were Alexandra Stubbs, Max Willcocks, Andrew Marshall, Donald Banks and Mark Black.

Alexandra Stubbs, whose 50th birthday fell during the competition, said: "It's been a massive privilege and unforgettable experience but launching myself off the precarious perch at the top of the 60m jump and hurtling down the rails at 50mph into the unknown blew some fuses in my brain. I took a few tumbles in training which dented my limited confidence but I'm super proud to have landed a jump for the ladies!"

When Eddie was presented with his medal he immediately gave it away to a nearby three-year-old toddler, saying: "Crikey, this is my first ever podium!"

Arnie Wilson

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