Commonwealth Games: Heatly set high bar for Scots

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FOR all the national team’s successes in recent years, there are still relatively few Scottish athletes who have won gold at the Commonwealth Games. It is rarer still for a Scot to have been a multiple medallist – but that was the feat achieved by Peter Heatly in the 1950s.

Born in Leith in 1924, Heatly learned to dive at Portobello, and first became district champion while barely in his teens. He went on to dominate Scottish diving after the war, and represented Great Britain at the London Olympic Games of 1948, coming fifth in the ten-metre highboard and 13th in the three-metre springboard.

But it was at the British Empire Games, as they were then called, in Auckland two years later that he really made his mark in international competition. He won 10m gold, finishing more than ten points clear of Canada’s George Athans, and was runner-up to Athans by less than half a point in the 3m competition.

Four years later in Vancouver, where the event was called the British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Heatly won gold again – but in the 3m this time. Fighting to defend his 10m title, he was beaten into third place.

Closer to home in 1958, when the Games were held in Cardiff, Heatly reclaimed the 10m title – his only medal that time round. Approaching his mid-30s by then, he had been contemplating retirement from diving for a while, but said his mind was made up when he realised one of his rivals was young enough to be his son.

Unsurprisingly for a man with such a distinguished competitive record, Heatly remained active within sport, first chairing the Scottish Sports Council and then going on to become chairman of the Commonwealth Games Federation, the international umbrella body which runs the Games. He was knighted in 1990 and inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.

One of his sons, Robert, was until recently chief executive of Scottish Hockey. Robert’s son James is one of Scotland’s leading divers and hopes to follow his grandfather in representing his country when the Games come to Glasgow next year.