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Wednesday, 12 December, 2001, 21:01 GMT
Peters praises new stars
Peters, shown here high jumping, won the gold after a titanic struggle with local heroine Heide Rosendahl.
Peters won pentathlon gold at the Munich Olympics
Dame Mary Peters tells BBC Sport Online's James Standley that Ellen MacArthur and Stephanie Cook should serve as role models for youngsters.

British sporting legend Dame Mary Peters says she finds the new generation of female sports stars inspirational.

The 1972 Olympic pentathlon gold medallist heaped praise on Ellen MacArthur and Stephanie Cook at the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year awards.

MacArthur was voted the 2001 Sportswoman of the Year and Cook received the Helen Rollason award for Sporting Inspiration, while Peters herself was handed a lifetime achievement award.

"I think the quality of prize-winners is fantastic," said Dame Mary.

I wasn't extra-special as a child
Olympic champion
Dame Mary Peters
"Ellen MacArthur is just sensational, she has so much strength and composure and courage.

"To spend 94 days in those gruelling conditions, on your own, and come through smiling and triumphant is amazing."

The new generation may have grown up in a markedly different environment to Dame Mary, but she would not change a thing about her own career.

"They're full-time athletes now and they get a lot of sponsorship or lottery funding, whereas in my day you just had to subsidise yourself, but I've no regrets about that.

"I've had a wonderful life through sport, and today's athletes have so much more pressure.

"I worked full time and then would train for two hours every day, either in the gym doing weights or out on the track in the rain and in the snow.

Girls should give sport a go for so many reasons
Dame Mary Peters
"We had poor facilities, and that's why I built a track when I retired from competing so that the young people of the future would have a better opportunity.

"But I think sometimes if you're hungry you're more determined and want to succeed more."

Dame Mary hopes that the next generation of youngsters takes the opportunity to follow in her footsteps.

"Girls should give sport a go for so many reasons.

"It's character-building, it's good for your health, you make friendships that last a life-time, and there is the opportunity of travelling all round the world at somebody else's expense!

"What better way could you spend your life?"


And she had words of encouragement for those who doubt they could ever achieve even a little bit of what she managed.

"I wasn't extra-special as a child.

"I had the right opportunities, but I took those opportunities.

"They say nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm and I've always had that.

"For life, never mind for my sport."

See also:

16 Jun 00 |  Sport
Dame Mary, the golden girl
12 Dec 01 |  Other Sports
Cook pursues new goals
11 Dec 01 |  Sailing
MacArthur lands new accolades
07 Dec 01 |  Sports Personality
Ellen's tough voyage
09 Dec 01 |  Sports Personality
Beckham lands BBC honour
19 Nov 01 |  Sailing
MacArthur on top of the world
19 Nov 01 |  Sailing
Ellen crowned world champion
Links to more Athletics stories are at the foot of the page.


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