WHERE EAGLE DAREDOne man’s quest to follow in the flight trajectory of Britain’s greatest ski-jumping legend. Part three – The jump
As I climb the steps up to the in-run, I pass a paramedic enjoying the sun from a deckchair next to his ambulance. “If you injure yourself, at least you will have the best happy hour tonight,” he says, smiling. “I have all the necessary medications.”
Erik is waiting for me at the top of the in-run. “Balance is the important part,” he intones, as I precariously clip on my skis and shuffle gingerly into position at the top of the narrow runway. Only my hands, tightly clutching the bar I’m perched on, prevent me from flying down the ramp.
“Focus,” Erik continues. Right now I’m focused on how surprisingly steep the in-run seems. “Be decisive when you land and you’ll make it.” I release my grip.
I’m startled by the loud gravelly noise of the tracks scraping along the underside of my skis, so much so that it takes me a second to realise I’m already halfway down the runway. I feel like I’m falling forwards, so I clench whatever core muscles I possess and see the end of the in-run hurtling towards me. All that training – the rollerboard, the reverse-bungie, the slacklines – I forget it all. I just hang on as I take off.
I wouldn’t be able to tell Björn what the adrenaline feels like when I’m in the air, because my brain can’t recall moments that short. If you watched me take off and didn’t blink once, you’d miss it. I land hard on the steepest part of the slope and realise my skis are now sliding away in two directions, pulling my legs apart like a wishbone. My body responds by slamming my face into the slope. It’s cold, it’s very white, there are a lot of crunchy noises and it feels like I’m caught under the hooves of stampeding horses. Then I stop.
I open my eyes and see a mosaic of light. For a moment I think my glasses are shattered before realising it’s snow packed under the lenses. I’ve used my face to brake far beyond the 10m length of the hill. My limbs respond as they should, except my feet, which are splayed awkwardly outwards at the behest of my skis. I decide I’m going to jump again.
Calo is sitting at the base of the hill. “I’m impressed at how you keep going,” he observes. “Most people would have given up when they kept falling over. Or when they had the wrong boots. But you keep coming back for more.” He nods at me. “That,” he says, “is ski jumping.”
As I scale the steep staircase once more, I’d like to say that in that moment I truly knew what it was to be a ski jumper, driven by the same relentless determination that made Eddie The Eagle never relinquish his dream. But all I can focus on is Björn’s best bit of advice: It’s much better to land on your ass than your face.
The Red Bulletin was sent to Oslo for the cinema release of Eddie The Eagle. The film is now showing UK-wide.