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The Independent Online
Achievement is one thing; but only when there is warmth of character to go with it does a performer win lasting public affection. For Mary Peters, BBC Sports Personality of 1972, the award recognised her Olympic pentathlon gold but reflected, too, a sunny disposition and that uncommonly wide smile.

She remembers the ceremony as vividly as her 1972 Munich victory. "I didn't know I'd won the award but the first three were tipped off so we would be ready to say a few words in front of Princess Anne, the previous year's winner," Peters recalled. "I said, 'Hasn't she kept it clean?' and people still remember that."

Born in Liverpool but brought up in Northern Ireland, Peters retired two years later, after the 1974 Commonwealth Games brought more gold. She has since exploited her popularity with the best possible motives, raising money first to build the Mary Peters Track and then lending support to numerous causes.

A former member of the Sports Council, she is on the women's committee of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, is a member of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, president of the Ulster Sports and Recreation Trust, president of the Northern Ireland Lady Taverners and campaigns for cancer and brittle bone disease charities. "I'm happy with my lot and I have no plans to wind down," she said.

Single and 56 - "I never had time to get married" - she is based near Belfast at Lisburn, where she has run a thriving health club since 1977.