Eddie the Eagle still carrying torch for underdogs

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Plucky ski jumper Eddie "the Eagle" Edwards who soared to fame at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games was back in Canada on Thursday, taking part in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics relay still carrying the torch for underdogs everywhere.

The British plasterer who endeared himself to fans around the world as he chased an unlikely dream, was once again greeted by wild cheers as he held high the Olympic torch during a bitterly cold early morning run.

"It's not quite the same as doing the ski jumping in Calgary 22 years ago but it is still nice to come back and be part of the whole Olympic dream," Edwards told reporters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Eagle landed back in Canada after being invited by the Canadian Olympic Committee to participate in the 45,000-km (28,000-mile) torch relay that is twisting its way across the country toward the opening ceremony in Vancouver on February 12.

It was 22 years ago that millions of curious sports fans held their collective breath as the near-sighted Briton with the thick glasses flung himself off the ski jump with his arms flailing.

Edwards finished last but won the hearts and imagination of the sporting world for his spirit and determination.

His performance also caught the attention of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which later tightened qualification standards ruling out the chance of ever seeing the likes of an Eddie the Eagle on an Olympic ski jumping hill ever again.

Edwards returned to Canada just after a coalition of women ski jumpers lost their court bid to be allowed to compete in the Olympics, where ski jumping remains a male-only sport.

"If you are in your sport for your country, you should be able to go to the Olympic Games and represent your sport for your country bringing people together in the interests of sport," said Edwards, still battling for the rights of the underdogs.

"It's a fantastic Olympic ideal and I uphold it as much as I can.."

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)