Date of Birth: 6 July 1939
Born: Halewood, Gt. Manchester
Club: Ballymena, Spartan Ladies, Albert Foundry.
Coach: Buster McShane.
Nothing Like A…
IN the summer of 2000, Mary Peters, one of British sport’s greatest ambassadors, was made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. For a woman renowned for her warmth and sincerity, never mind her brilliant athletics ability, here was a fitting tribute to a career where she has bridged the age gap of so many.
Peters received this honour in recognition for her work for athletics and the community in Northern Ireland. She was seen as a woman who brought together the sectarian divide in Ireland in 1972 when she achieved her greatest moment on the track when she won the Olympic Pentathlon gold medal in Munich, becoming a heroine to so many. Such as Sebastian Coe, prior to his gold medal glory at the Olympics in Moscow in 1980 and, fittingly, in 2000, when Denise Lewis won the heptathlon at the Olympics in Sydney.
In 1972, the women’s multi-event competition at major championships was over five disciplines. The Pentathlon combined the 100m Hurdles, Shot Put, High Jump, Long Jump and 200m and after the opening day in Munich, Peters, 33, led the competition by 301 points. But the Long Jump did not go as planned, meaning the whole competition rested on the sprint finale, and it could not have been more dramatic. Heide Rosendahl, of West Germany, the host country, was eyeing up gold and the 200m was so tense because the whole event was going to be decided in a matter of seconds and by a matter of points.
Peters, the Commonwealth champion, knew she had to run a personal best time and she did just that, clocking 24.08, to finish second behind Rosendahl who won in 22.96. With points based on times, had Peters achieved enough to land gold? There was an agonising wait until the result was announced, that not only had she won gold by just 10 points but that her total of 4801 was a world record. At her third Olympics, she had finally triumphed - and it was Britain’s only athletics gold of the Games. Her success came on September 4, 24 hours before the darkest hour in Olympic history. The following day, the Munich Massacre began.
Peters set 25 British records during a career where in 1972 she was named the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year, but since she has given back so much to track and field. The stadium at Queen’s University in Belfast is now named in her honour after a fund she set up in Northern Ireland raised £80,000 to resurface the cinder track. In 1973, she was made an MBE and she was awarded the CBE in 1994.
After she has retired, it seemed everybody wanted a piece of this true British star who has held nine chairmanship, president or vice-president positions among the large amount of administrative posts. She was a member of the Northern Ireland Sports Council, the British Sports Council and between 1997-1998, she was president of the British Athletics Federation. But her presence, and her contribution, on the stage she knew best was so immense.
Listening To This 'MP'
At the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, Sebastian Coe was expected to win the 800m and Steve Ovett, his great British rival, was the favourite for the 1500m. The shorter distance came first and the result did not go as planned. Ovett triumphed over the two laps, and Coe was left to contemplate how to put his mind right. As he said, he sought the words of a very special MP - that of Mary Peters. Peters was Britain’s women's team manager at the Games - a position she held in Los Angeles in 1984 as well - and she helped refocus Coe to his task ahead. Later that week he won the 1500m gold medal but her Olympics link would go beyond that generation.
When Denise Lewis won the Olympic heptathlon title in Sydney in 2000, her triumph was the first success by a British woman at a global multi-events Championship since Peters in 1972. As Lewis celebrated, Peters was among the first to congratulate her, but it was the new gold medallist who was heaping the praise and inspiration back on a woman who has lived in Northern Ireland since was 11 and who, it is estimated, has raised more than £300,000 for charity.
1958: 8th shot, 12th high jump Commonwealth Games
1962: 4th shot Commonwealth Games; 5th pentathlon, 12th shot Europeans
1964: 4th pentathlon, 14 shot Olympics
1966: 2nd shot Commonwealth Games, 11th shot Europeans
1968: 9th pentathlon Olympics
1970: 8th shot, sf 60mh European Indoors; 1st shot and pentathlon, 5th 100mh Commonwealth Games; 6th shot European Cup
1972: 1st pentathlon Olympics; 13th shot, sf 60mh European Indoors
1973: 17th high jump European Indoors
1974: 1st pentathlon, 4th shot, 8th high jump, sf 100mh Commonwealth Games
UK Internationals: 43 (1961-73)
Won WAAA pentathlon 1962-6, 1968, 1970, 1973; shot 1964, 1970; indoor shot 1964-6, 1970, 1972; 60m hurdles 1970; Northern Ireland 100y 1957, 1963; 220y 1963; 80mh 1957, 1963-4, 1967; 100mh 1970; HJ 1963, 1967, 1970; LJ 1959, 1963, 1967; SP 1957-64, 1967, 1970; DT 1958-64; Pen 1958-9, 1961-2, 1964, 1970, 1972.
100y 11.1 (1967), 11.0 doubtful timing (1964); 200m 24.08 (1972), high jump 1.82 (1972), long jump 6.04 (1972), 6.07w (1973); shot 16.31 (1966), discus 36.96 (1964).
Indoors: 60m 7.6 (1972), 50mh 7.16 (1972), 7.0 (1970); 60mh 8.5 (1970), shot 16.40 (1970)