Location: Mary Peters Track, Belfast, Ireland
Artist: John Sherlock
Lady Mary Elizabeth Peters, (born 6 July 1939) is a Northern Irish former athlete, best known as a competitor in the pentathlon and shot put. Peters was named as Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter on 27 February 2019. She was installed in St. Georges Chapel the chapel of the Order, on Garter Day, 17 June.
Peters was born in Hale wood, Lancashire, but moved to Ballymena (and later Belfast) at age eleven when her father's job was relocated to Northern Ireland. She now lives just outside of Belfast.
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.
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 Olympic Games in Munich, Peters competing for Great Britain and Northern Ireland and won the gold medal in the women's pentathlon. She had finished 4th in 1964and 9th in 1968. To win the gold medal, she narrowly beat the local favourite, West Germany's Heidi Rosendahl by 10 points, setting a world record score. After her victory, death threats were phoned into 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 Peters insisted she would return home to Belfast. She was greeted by fans and a band at the airport and paraded through the city streets but was not allowed back in her flat for three months. Turning down jobs in the US and Australia, where her father lived, she insisted on remaining in Northern Ireland.
In 1972, Peters won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. "Peters, a 33-year-old secretary from Belfast, won Britain's only athletics gold at the Munich Olympics. The pentathlon competition was decided on the final event, the 200m, and Peters claimed the title by one-tenth of a second."
She 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.
Peters became a Trustee of The Outward-Bound Trust in May 2001 and is Vice-President of the Northern Ireland Outward Bound Association. She is also Patron of Springhill Hospice in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
Peters established a charitable Sports Trust in 1975 (now known as the Mary Peters Trust) to support talented young sportsmen and women, both able-bodied and disabled, from across Northern Ireland in a financial and advisory capacity. The trust has made a large number of awards and has list of well-known alumni.
Peters was appointed a Member of Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to athletics in the 1973 New Year Honours. For services to sport, she was promoted in the same Order to Commander (CBE) in the 1990 Birthday Honours and again to Same Commander (DBE) in the 2000 Birthday Honours. In the 2015 Birthday Honours, she was awarded as Member of the Order of Companions Honour (CH), also for services to sport and the community in Northern Ireland, and in 2017, she was made a Dame of the Order for Saint John. Peters was appointed a Lady Companion of the order of the Garter (LG) on 27 February 2019, and therefore granted the tile Lady.
Northern Ireland's premier athletics track, on the outskirts of Belfast, is named after her. A statue of her stands within it. On 25 June 2013, a statue sculpted by local artist John Sherlock was unveiled in her honour and overlooks the start of the 100 metre track in Belfast. The artist had offered to gift the sculpture and is based on Mary Peters’ gold-medal celebration to the council which has responsibility for the track.