Famous faces join NI Olympic hero at first fundraiser since Covid outbreak
The Mary Peters Trust welcomed an array of famous sporting faces yesterday for its first fundraising event in over 18 months, with the aim of giving ‘every young person the opportunity to succeed in sport’.
The Sport Inspires Lunch was attended by legendary athletes from across Northern Ireland, including retired rugby star Rory Best, Northern Ireland women’s captain Marissa Callaghan and many of the athletes that competed in the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year.
Lady Peters, who won gold in the 1972 Olympics’ women's pentathlon, hopes that sporting enthusiasts “continue to progress” and “never give up”, despite the setbacks Covid-19 may have presented to many of them.
Her trust helps young people across Northern Ireland, both disabled and able-bodied, achieve sporting ambitions by supporting them financially and providing access to a team of experts.
The charity helped 90% of the local athletes who went to the Tokyo Olympics in their early days of preparation.
“One of the young ladies that I’m presenting to today is Zoe Rainey, who is a 12-year-old that raised £6,000 for us,” Lady Peters added.
“Her motto is ‘never give up’. I just think, if she can do that for us, what can we do for her, to make her life better? I think every young person should be given the opportunity to succeed in sport.”
Using a new hand-cycle, wheelchair-bound Zoe, who has many complex disabilities, completed 11 laps of the Mary Peters track in the summer to raise money for the trust.
“Next year will be 50 years since my success in Munich and I travelled the world, made great friends, I have a healthy lifestyle, and I just feel so grateful. I want them to experience that too,” Lady Peters continued. “We have so many people knocking on the door of success, competing at European and world levels. I just want to see them continue to progress — it’s only three years until the next Olympics in Paris.
"I was 33 before I had my Olympic success, it was my third Olympics. I hope that young people will be inspired by the people who have succeeded in the past and want to succeed in the future for themselves. It makes us all as the public feel better and happier when we have success in sport.”
The event was hosted by Jimmy Nesbitt, who stressed the importance of sport for public spirit and mental health.
"Sport became something that we were kind of almost not allowed to do for a while, but people did find ways to continue through lockdown and it’s great that the Mary Peters Trust continued to support people throughout that,” added the Ballymena actor.
Also attending was Olympic swimmer and Newtownabbey native, Danielle Hill.
"Mary has supported me for the past 10 years now,” she said. "I’ve always said the Mary Peters Trust is different, in that when you join it, you don’t just get the support. It’s like joining a family.”
Rory Best said that the last two years may have been the toughest times for anyone involved in sport, but encouraged any aspiring athlete to “just keep persevering and know there’s things like the Mary Peters Trust that are generating money to push people along.”