Dame Mary Peters is a former British Olympic Athlete. Peters competed mainly in the Shot Put and Pentathlon events. The Pentathlon has since expanded to the Heptathlon, for which Denise Lewis is famous. Peters is one of the most famous female athletes Britain has ever produced. She was a favourite of the fans and won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1972.

Peters competed at three consecutive Olympic Games. She came close to a medal in the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. At the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968 an ankle injury and altitude combined to leave her finishing back in ninth place.

It was in the Munich Olympics of 1972 that Mary Peters stunned the world. At 33, few would have predicted that she would have been able to beat Heide Rosendahl, considered to be one of the greatest female athletes in the world at the time, on the German athlete's home soil. To make matters worse, Mary Peters' preparations were not helped by the situation back home in Northern Ireland, where violence and terrorism were at their peak.

Peters raced ahead on day one with personal bests in the first three events. However, day two began with an average Long Jump for Mary Peters and allowed Heide Rosendahl to close the gap. With the 200m to go, Rosendahl's best event, it was clear that Mary Peters was going to have to run the 200m faster than she ever had before in order hold onto the gold medal place. Rosendahl won the race, with Peters finishing fourth. But when the totals were added, Peters had 4801 points to Rosendahl's 4791. Peters took the Gold by just ten points, the equivalent of one tenth of a second in the 200m, shattering the World and Olympic records. It was to be Great Britain's only athletics Gold medal of the games. Such was the joy back home that even the violence in Northern Ireland came to a temporary halt, with both sides joining in the celebration.

Mary Peters was award the MBE following this success in 1973, upgraded to OBE in 1990 and a DBE in 2000.

Portadown College Class of 1972


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