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