My haven: The 1972 pentathlon Gold medallist in her ‘trophy room’ – the conservatory of her Belfast home
21:38 GMT, 27 July 2012
The 1972 pentathlon Gold medallist in her 'trophy room' – the conservatory of her Belfast home
1 HOLD THE BACK PAGE
All my memorabilia is on display here, and this back page from the Belfast Telegraph on the night I won Gold is one of my favourites. Malcolm Brodie, their sports editor, rang me as I was celebrating in a restaurant outside Munich. Malcolm is a mentor, like a Dad to me. He’s in his 80s now and I still see him regularly. Coming home was magical because the people came out on the streets to welcome me. It was a spark of good news for Belfast at a difficult time.
2. ME AND MANDELA
In the 90s I was invited to meet Nelson Mandela at St James’s Palace. We held hands while we talked – this photo captures it – and I felt energy coming from a man who’d had such a bad experience yet appeared not to have any bitterness in his heart. How generous is that in a person I was then invited to South Africa to encourage women and children to enjoy sport. It gave me so much pleasure to see such joy in the faces of people with so little.
3 GOLD STANDARD
Winning Gold was a moment of sheer joy, even more so as I was our only track Gold in 1972 and I knew that at 33, I wouldn’t get another chance. In fact I was so happy I couldn’t even cry! This is a copy of my medal – the real one is exhibited in the Ulster Museum, because I won it for the people of Belfast. The sculptor John Sherlock is doing a life-size statue of me, and he needed a copy of my medal to put on it, so I persuaded him to do three others to give to my great-nieces.
4 LASTING MEMORY
My portrait has been painted four times, and this one was commissioned by the Belfast Arts Club and presented to me by Lord Gray, the last Governor of Northern Ireland, in 1973. It’s by Belfast artist Raymond Piper and I’m so fond of it, particularly as I’m overlooking the Mary Peters Track, which I helped raise the money to build. It reminds me of my success in Munich – and encapsulates the feeling of achievement only sport can give.
5 STONE DEAF
Athletics has introduced me to all sorts of people, but it doesn’t always go to plan. After the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, where I came fourth, the Rolling Stones were playing in Belfast and were asked if they’d be pictured with me. My father had been lead violin in an orchestra so I should have had musical genes, but I was always out on the track so I didn’t really know who they were. And it turned out they weren’t that interested in me either!
6 ROYAL CONNECTION
After Prince William and Kate were engaged, I got to escort them on their visit to Belfast in my role as Lord Lieutenant. I was very impressed with the warmth between them as a couple, and towards the crowds. Of the Royal Family, I’ve worked most closely with Princess Anne and I’m thrilled her daughter Zara has been chosen this year. I think she’ll do well. I’m an ambassador for the Games, and what I’d love most is to present Jessica Ennis with a Gold medal.