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BBC NI's Tara Mills reports
"It's almost 30 years since Mary Peters won gold at the Munich Olympics"
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Tuesday, 1 August, 2000, 06:41 GMT 07:41 UK
Sporting tribute to Dame Mary
Mary Peters
Mary Peters (left) became an ambassador for the province
Officials from the world of sport paid a special tribute on Monday night to Northern Ireland's Olympic gold medalist Mary Peters.

A reception and dinner were held to officially congratulate the former pentathlete for becoming a Dame of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

The gala event at Hillsborough Castle was hosted by Northern Ireland sports minister Michael McGimpsey on behalf of the Sports Council of Northern Ireland.

Also attending were UK sports minister Kate Hoey, former athletes and representatives from sporting bodies throughout the UK.

Mr McGimpsey said Dame Mary's name was "synonymous with all that is good in sport and she richly deserves this latest honour to be bestowed on her".

He told her: "You have been a wonderful ambassador for the province and we are all very proud of you.

"On behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, thank you and very many congratulations on your honour."

Michael McGimpsey
Michael McGimpsey: Paid tribute to Dame Mary
The sports minister said Dame Mary was a widely respected and much loved figure, not only in Northern Ireland but also throughout the United Kingdom and the world of athletics.

"After her wonderful performance at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Mary Peters became known as our Golden Girl and to this day, that affectionate title has stayed with her," he said.

"As well as her many outstanding achievements in her chosen sport of athletics, her contribution to the whole community over the years has been immense.

"It was her enthusiasm and sheer hard work which led to the provision of the Mary Peters' Track for budding local athletes. "

He added that Dame Mary had worked tirelessly for a number of public bodies and still found time to devote to the needs of disabled people.

"It is that selflessness which has endeared her to so many people."

Mary Peters
Mary Peters: Honoured by new title
Speaking on Monday night, Dame Mary said she felt "very honoured and humble about" her new title.

"Everybody will always know me as Mary 'P'," she said. "But it's another title to have and it's very nice."

The province's golden girl became a dame in June in recognition of her work for athletics and the community in Northern Ireland.

She had been awarded an MBE in 1973 and a CBE in 1990.

The Lancashire-born lady, who moved to Belfast as a girl, was credited with briefly uniting the people of Northern Ireland during one of the most violent periods in its history.

Dame Mary claimed gold for Britain in the pentathlon during the 1972 Munich Olympics.

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See also:

17 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland birthday honours
16 Jun 00 | Sport
Dame Mary, the golden girl
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