Discipline: Ski jumping
Story summary: Michael Edwards wanted to be an Olympic Games participant ever since he was little. After many unsuccessful attempts at various disciplines he found the one: ski jumping. Passion-driven, he sets out to Germany where he trains in the presence of other international teams. Nobody believes in him since Great Britain hadn’t participated in ski jumps in decades prior but Eddie doesn’t give up. He gets progressively better as he enlists helps from a drunken successful ski jumper has-been, Bronson Peary who works as a snow-groomer. Despite many obstacles left to overcome, the team ultimately make it to the finals at the Olympics where Eddie makes his legendary jump.
Analysis: Based on a true story of a Brit who brought the Great Britain back into the Olympics ski jumping in 1988, the film sets out to show that yes, you can do it. And what better way to show that than following the real story? Nobody believed in Eddie, he had to convince, no, beg his future trainer to overcome his bitterness and make things right and help him. He had to go against the decision of the British Olympic board to not include him into the team and he had to conquer the highest, incredible, deadly jump.
Now, let it be first said that the movie is not entirely based on real events. Edwards initially went to Canada, not Germany, and was coached by two guys, not one. Fortunately, the film makers’ liberties were explained properly and accepted by all the people involved in the real story.
From motivational point of view, the movie doesn’t wait long to put Eddie to the test, ever since he was little, he didn’t have to overcome just the distrust of his surroundings, but also his own shortcomings as he tried many different disciplines, failing at each miserably. The film works well there by adding a bit of light humor to it and demonstrates the character’s undying determination right from his young age. And that is perfect, when growing up, we do everything for the first time, it’s naive to think we’d be amazing at everything we try for the first time. This brings us back to those times – we saw someone do something cool, we tried to imitate them, we failed. We took some time to cry, felt bad for a moment, then stood up and went for it again, or better yet, got some help. It’s how we get better at things. And this idea goes a long way through the movie, interestingly enough, even for other characters than Eddie.
Discouragement or encouragement can do more help or damage than people might think. Despite the “you gotta believe in yourself” phrase you get to hear from motivational speakers, discouragement can easily undermine otherwise very capable a person’s will to bring out the best out of them. The reason why I am saying this is that strong will not “given” to us by birth, not many people have it, not many people are even capable of building it, it’s actually a skill and everybody has their own limits on all skills. So, if someone is, for example, an excellent swimmer, they could, in their best state of mood, pull of a record time in the pool. But take that confidence away and this person would never do that, no matter their capabilities. That is what is so marvelous about Eddie, because he gets told many times in the movie that he is not good enough, or that he doesn’t have what it takes etc. yet he doesn’t give up. He goes on, looks for a way until he is sure there is none. There is one scene where Eddie fails in a jump and has to go home, it’s over. How can a strong-willed person do that, you ask? First of all, after failing at the jump, he goes to the referees and demands a rectification, given none, he goes home knowing that he had his chance, it was his own fault he failed but he indeed got to the point when he had a chance. He didn’t give up, actually, he accepted the fact he can’t go on with jumping because he failed, that the jump was the test of his own limits.
That’s where Bronson Peary comes in. This character represents two coaches who helped the real Eddie in Canada to prepare for the jump. In this film, he is a former successful jumper whose career has ended because he was too flamboyant. So Bronson doesn’t want to have anything to do with jumping anymore and refuses to help Eddie no matter how much he pleas. This character setup is here purely for the character development element of the film, both Eddie and Bronson have something to learn from each other – Eddie learns to jump, Bronson learns to have a positive attitude again.
Under the pretense of helping Eddie to get rid of him as quickly as possible, Bronson starts training him. Eddie of course has many failures along the way, even other ski jumpers look down on him, after all, he came all the way alone and doesn’t know much about ski jumping. That brings them closer together and when Eddie fails his qualifying jump and goes home, it is Bronson who finds a loophole to get him back. This is a result of Eddie’s pure determination and willingness to go through rigorous training and laughter of others to get to his dream. Imagine this kid who has left a comfortable and secure life with his family to go with his low quality equipment and handful of money to sleep in a laundry room in a hotel next to a ski jumping ramp and break his legs on every other jump he makes even on the smallest ramp. A kid who is being looked down upon by everyone else, including his own father and willing to literally go against death on the biggest Olympic ramp in front of the whole world. So yes, when you see that he can land at least some jumps, you’d like to see what this kid really is capable of under right guidance, wouldn’t you?
The best cherry on the top is when Eddie, on his way to the final jump, meets a fellow jumper Matti Nykänen, in the film dubbed as The Flying Finn, who tells him that what matters to both of them is not just winning or losing, they do it because they love it. This helps Eddie shake off a lot of stress, he is looking forward to the jump and goes for it, only thinking of good stuff. The reason why it struck me as genius was that earlier in the story, Bronson confesses to Eddie that he was able to make those huge jumps by getting drunk, therefore numbing himself to the life-threatening danger. To me, the first alternative sounds much better, just love what you do, there will be no space left for fear. Love for something brings confidence, fear brings only a lack of it.
What it teaches us: Only you can tell yourself what you are capable of, not others.