Olympian’s story kicks off Lake Placid Film Forum

From the right, Lake Placid’s Alan, Emma and Ayden Patterson stand in front of the Palace Theater Wednesday evening before watching “Eddie the Eagle,” the first movie show in this year’s Lake Placid Film Forum. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — For those who aren’t avid fans of ski jumping but have some familiarity with the sport, the name Eddie the Eagle has to ring a bell.

A member of Great Britain’s 1988 Winter Olympic team that competed in Calgary, Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards never came close to being a medal contender, but certainly embodied the spirit described by the father of the modern games, Pierre de Coubertin.

On Wednesday, the 16th annual Lake Placid Film Forum opened at the Palace Theater with the movie “Eddie the Eagle.”

The film tells the story of a young English boy’s dream to become an Olympian, and the difficult path he followed starting as an awkward 10-year-old to become Great Britain’s first ski jumper at the Olympic games since 1929. The underdog Edwards was his nation’s only jumper and finished dead last in Calgary in both the 70- and 90-meter ski jump competitions in Calgary, but won the hearts of the world with his perseverance.

De Coubertin’s words, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well,” was the perfect description of the never-quit attitude of Edwards, who was portrayed in the film by British actor Taron Egerton.

Although Lake Placid was never mentioned during the movie, Edwards’ road to Calgary went right through the Olympic Village. In the film, he learned to ski jump in Germany, but in real life, his education and training actually took place in Lake Placid. He came here in 1987 as an alpine skier, but after finding that path closed, he switched to ski jumping under the tutelage of local coaches John Viscome and Chuck Berghorn. Hugh Jackman played the role of Edwards’ coach in the movie.

The film, which opened in 2016, may have been a fitting kickoff for the Lake Placid Film Forum. At the same time Edwards was soaring off the jumps in Lake Placid during his Olympic quest, another Olympic dream was unfolding just a few miles away as Jamaican bobsledders were beginning their story at the 1980 run at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

The real Eddie Edwards attempted to get back to the Olympics that were hosted in Albertville, France in 1992, but by that time, qualifying standards had been instituted that he was unable to achieve. He also attempted to reach the Olympics in 1994 and 1998, but again, he couldn’t meet the necessary jumping standards.

Following the movie, some members of the 50 or so viewers in attendance shared their experiences meeting the real Eddie Edwards, who had made return trips to Lake Placid for a number of years after he soared in Calgary. Two Lake Placid residents, Andrew and Amy Quinn, were celebrating their 20th anniversary on Wednesday. They were married at the base of the ski jumps, and during those festivities, Edwards provided the entertainment with some jumping.

Olympic Regional Development Authority Communications Director Jon Lundin led the post-movie discussion, and knew Edwards while he ski jumped in Lake Placid.

“He was actually a fairly good athlete,” Lundin said. “In 1984, in fact, he tried to qualify for Great Britain’s alpine team. That’s kind of where the story really began. He came here trying to reach the Olympics only to realize that in terms of funding, it was going to be difficult as an alpine athlete, so he turned his attention to ski jumping. He was obviously quite popular here while training in Lake Placid.”

The 16th annual Lake Placid Film Forum continues today with the movies “Paterson” and “The Salesman,” which will be shown at 6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

The forum runs through Sunday.

For more information, visit adirondackfilmsociety.org or see today’s Weekender edition.