CALGARY — Ski jumper Gregor Linsig was just 11-years-old when he went to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.
But a few weeks before the games kicked off, he met an unknown British athlete who would soon become a star of the event.
“We had a competition and I remembered my coach got first, I got second and Eddie was third,” Gregor Linsig said. “And one week later, [Eddie] was the biggest star in the world.”
Linsig is referring to Michael “Eddie” Edwards, the unlikely ski jumping athlete who didn’t win a medal but captured the hearts of fans around the world.
Edwards was in his early 20s and a plasterer when he says his dreams came true in Calgary.
“Even though I came 58th, I didn’t come last,” Edwards said in Calgary at the 20th anniversary of the games in 2008.
“I beat a Frenchman. He broke his leg the day before,” Edwards said with a laugh.
His heart warming story is now being told by Hollywood in a new movie, called Eddie the Eagle, released Friday and starring Hugh Jackman as Eddie’s coach Bronson Peary. Kingsman: The Secret Service star Taron Egerton plays Eddie.
While it tells the story of Edwards’ jumps at Calgary’s Canada Olympic Park, the movie was not shot in Alberta.
Crews did come to the province to scout the jumps from the 1988 Games. But since the largest tower had not been in operation since 2001, the production company opted to use operational jumps in Germany.
Set designers contacted Linsig, now Ski Jumping Canada’s head coach, to find skis and equipment used back then.
They also considered him to be one of the movie’s stunt doubles for the actor playing Edwards.
“They needed someone who could sky jump but maybe not in great sky jump athletic condition and somehow my name popped up again,” Linsig said.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the part but he’s still thrilled the exposure his sport will receive in the movie.
It wasn’t the only underdog storyline of those Olympics, nor the only blockbuster.
The late John Candy stared in Cool Runnings, the Disney movie profiling the story of the Jamaican bobsled team’s qualification and crash.
Frank King was the chairman and CEO of the 1988 games organization committee and says he’s proud of the legacy the games continue to have with both stories.
“I think people like to see that ordinary people, let’s say like you and me, and other people can do amazing things if they put their hearts and minds to it,” said King.
Edwards never qualified for another Olympics.
The International Olympics Committee eventually closed the loophole that got him to Calgary.
He’s been back to Canada since then as an invited guest, including carrying the Vancouver games’ torch during its race during a leg through Winnipeg in 2010.