BBC’S STEPHEN WATSON HELPS TO UNVEIL BRONZE BUST OF OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNER MARY PETERS

Stephen Watson unveils bronze bust of Dame Mary Peters

Stephen Watson unveils bronze bust of Dame Mary Peters

BBC NI roving sports reporter Stephen Watson helps unveil a bronze bust of Olympic hero Mary Peters.

The bust was unveiled in Lisburn to mark the 40th anniversary of her winning the Olympic Gold medal.

Lisburn has become Dame Mary Peters adopted home town after she was born in Halewood, Lancashire but her family first moved to Ballymena and then later to Belfast at the age of 11.

As a teenager, her father encouraged her athletic career by building her home practice facilities as birthday gifts.

She qualified as a teacher and worked while training. In the run up to the Munich Olympics, her training was made more difficult by the IRA bombing campaign in Belfast.

After Ballymena, the family moved to Portadown where she attended Portadown College.

The headmaster Donald Woodman and PE teacher Kenneth McClelland introduced her to athletics with Mr McClelland her first coach. She was head girl of the school in 1956.

In the 1972 summer Olympics in Munich, Mary Peters competing for Great Britain and Northern Ireland won the gold medal in the women’s pentathlon.

She had finished 4th in 1964 and 9th in 1968. To win the gold medal, she narrowly beat the local favourite, Germany’s Heide Rosendahl, by 10 points, setting a world record score.

After her victory, death threats were phoned in to the BBC: “Mary Peters is a protestant and has won a medal for Britain. An attempt will be made on her life and it will be blamed on the IRA … Her home will be going up in the near future.”

But despite the threat, Mary Peters returned home to Belfast where she was given a jubilant welcome by fans and a band at the airport.

She later paraded through the city streets, but was not allowed back in her flat for three months.

Mary Peters  represented Northern Ireland at every Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1974.

In these games she won 2 gold medals for the pentathlon, plus a gold and silver medal for the shot put.

In May 2001, she became a Trustee of The Outward Bound Trust and is Vice President of the Northern Ireland Outward Bound Association.

She is also Patron of Springhill Hospice in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

In 1973, Peters was awarded an MBE for “her services to athletics.”

In the 1990 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she was promoted to Commander (CBE) for “for services to Sport”.

Ten years later in the 2000 Queen’s Birthday Honours, she was promoted to Dame Commander (DBE) “for services to Sport and to the community in Northern Ireland”.

In her honour, the province’s athletics track, on the outskirts of Belfast, is called the Mary Peters Track.

In April, 2009, she was named the Lord Lieutenant of Belfast.

 

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