Casting role for Olympic underdog

Sew Grove Hill

A British Olympian who captured the nation’s hearts despite being a total failure, is due to be immortalised in both film and art this month.

Skier Eddie the Eagle, a plasterer by trade, was beloved by an entire generation who tuned in to watch the underdog’s 1988 Winter Olympic exploits, where he came last in both of his competition events.

But now the heroic failure, whose exploits as a persistently under-performing ski jumper turned his name into by-word for someone who will persevere despite the odds, is set to become famous for a whole new generation.

And his name is due to live on long after the film, called Eddie the Eagle and starring Hugh Jackman, is forgotten due to the work of renowned Wadhurst sculptor Louise Giblin, which she hopes could feature at its premier.

Famous for her body casts of celebrities and sports personalities, including the 2012 Olympians, the prominent member of the Royal British Society of Sculptors took on the new task following a chance meeting with Eddie Edwards.

Working in a tighter time frame than usual, Mrs Giblin has created three life-sculptures of the ski-jumper’s head, of which the nickel plated bronze version would fetch £12,000 at a gallery.

Explaining how the job came about, Mrs Giblin said: “I first met him in March last year while visiting the site of the Channel 4 show, The Jump, where I had planned to meet up with Heather Mills, who is another model of mine and was a contestant.”


Describing Eddie as a ‘hero’ from her days studying sculpting at art college in the 1980s, they soon became friends and the idea of creating a bust of his head to coincide with the film was born.

She said: “He is such a positive individual and very humble. My generation all warmed to him as he just kept on getting up and trying again, so I asked him if I could make the sculpture of him.”

Although a proportion of any sale of the Eddie the Eagle sculpture would go to a charity of his choice, and despite funding the project herself, Mrs Giblin is not worried if it never sells.

“It has bought me a lot of joy to make. He is a British hero and I have loved every moment of it, from conception to completion.

“As the film was being released much earlier than originally anticipated, I have worked on it seven days a week for the last four months and had a sleep pattern similar to Margret Thatcher, going to bed at 3am and back up at 7am.

“But it is partly that focus and the fact I did not have time to try different models which makes it so special to me. I only had one shot at making it work.

“The wonderful thing is these sculptures will last up to 3,000 years so future generations will find it and know who he is.”

Mrs Giblin said there is a possibility the head could end up on display in the Tunbridge Wells SEEArt gallery before touring the country.

He was the first person to represent Great Britain at the sport of Olympic ski Jumping, coming last in both in the 70m and 90m events at the 1988 games.

Born in Cheltenham, he was a competent downhill skier but failed to qualify for the British Olympic squad and so changed to ski jumping as the standard needed to qualify as the county’s sole representative was much lower.

His lack of sponsorship meant he was entirely self-funded and had to rely on the ski equipment of his coach, Chuck Berghorn, which meant he needed to wear six layers of socks before the boots could fit.

Famous as an example of an underdog or ‘heroic failure’ during the games, the press refered to him as Mr Magoo or ‘the ski dropper’.

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