In the 45th pentathlon of her career, the veteran Mary Peters of Spartan Ladies AC achieved the ultimate athletic success by winning an Olympic title with a new world record. The English-born Peters spent much of her life in Ireland and her first pentathlon competition was at Ballymena in 1955. In the 17 years leading up to her Olympic triumph, she won seven WAAA pentathlon titles as well as the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1970, and finished fourth in the 1964 Olympics and ninth in 1968. She also won the WAAA shot put title twice and was the Commonwealth Games champion in 1970. After the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, she took a rest from competition and devoted 1971 to intensive training guided by her coach Buster McShane.

Her form early in 1972 indicated that despite her age she would be a strong contender for the Olympic title. After the opening event (100 metre hurdles) in München the 33-year-old Peters was in second place, just six points behind the leader. She moved into the lead after the second event (shot put) and at the end of the first day she held a lead of 301 points. The West German Heide Rosendahl-Ecker, in front of her home crowd, made a superb effort on the second day and made up 291 points on Peters, but she still finished a tantalizing 10 points behind the ecstatic British winner. The last event was the 200 metres, with the two contenders for the gold medal drawn in the same heat. Rosendahl came home ahead of Peters, her overall score of 4791 points giving her the world record for a fraction over one second. Precisely 1.2 seconds after Rosendahl had completed the race, and the competition, Peters reached the 200 metres finishing line and with a total of 4,801 points the world record passed to her.

Mary Peters, who was awarded the MBE in 1973 and the CBE in 1990, competed for two more years and in her fifth appearance at the Commonwealth Games in 1974, she successfully defended her pentathlon title. After retirement she remained active in sports-related civic affairs and fund-raising in Belfast, and was the team manager for many women’s international athletic teams. Peters was appointed Lord Lieutenant of the City of Belfast in 2009.

Personal Bests: 100H – 13.29 (1972); HJ – 1.82 (1972); SP – 16.40i (1970); PenA - 4823 (1964); PenB – 4801 (1972).



Athlete Olympic Results Content

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