Still a high-flyer at 75, Mary Peters takes 147ft abseil plunge for charity
Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters has become the first person to abseil from the dome in Belfast’s Victoria Square — at the age of 75.
The brave sports star freefall abseiled 100 feet from the viewing gallery to the floor of the shopping centre, none the worse for wear, as part of a bid to raise money for disadvantaged children.
She was the first of 40 intrepid people who dared to drop from the glass-covered dome yesterday, in an event to raise money for Downtown Radio Cash for Kids and the Mary Peters Trust.
Yesterday, Dame Mary called the challenge “another tick on the bucket list” and said it was scary but magic.
“You are in a harness which is all round your waist and buttocks,” she told the Belfast Telegraph. “The worst part is climbing out over the edge, but you are being held well by a tight rope.
“You walk down a little wall and then it’s free falling — it’s slow but not too scary.
“It was kind of magic.”
Dame Mary said she was normally not afraid of heights, but the challenge had its moments.
“I was afraid of climbing out over the side, but you have to trust the people holding the rope and they were professional, very good.
“I have faced other challenges in life and you just do it.
“You are in control. It was quite nice going down.
“I was looking around at all the people on the balcony and some of the supporters were there — it was nice to see familiar faces.
“You have to face your fears.
“Years ago I did a parachute jump and that was much scarier. It’s another tick on the bucket list.”
Dame Mary won gold in the pentathlon at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, and two pentathlon gold medals at the Commonwealth Games between 1958 and 1974, as well as gold and silver for the shot-put.
Darren Fowler, regional charity manager for Cash for Kids, said the effort will support disabled children all over Northern Ireland. “It’s also supporting the Mary Peters Trust, which some of the funds from the event will go to,” he said.
“Dame Mary Peters decided that because she was asking for supporters to do it, she needed to be the first one.”
Cool FM Breakfast presenter Paulo Ross also took part in the gravity-defying challenge.
“I admire how much effort the guys put into fundraising throughout the year,” he said. “Last year it helped Mencap and I got to go on site and see how the money is actually used.
“They built a new centre in south Belfast with the money raised by Cash for Kids.
“It helps so many children.”
Meanwhile, world champion boxer Carl Frampton joined people of all ages and abilities in Belfast yesterday for the Sainsbury’s Sport Relief Games.
The day kicked off with cyclists racing from Queen’s University Physical Education Centre (PEC) and along the River Lagan. There was a swimathon at Queen’s PEC, while runners and walkers clocked up hundreds of miles in the city centre to raise funds.
Carl and his family joined the events at Custom House Square alongside Pete Snodden, who revved up the crowd with a range of family-friendly activities.
Carl, the current IBF and WBA World Champion, said: “It’s been a great day out in my home town for the Belfast Flagship Games.
“The money raised by Sport Relief will help people here in Northern Ireland who are living very tough lives.”
Money raised through Sport Relief will be spent helping people in Belfast, across the UK and in the world’s poorest communities.