Peter Heatly’s choice of diving as a career was inspired by Olympic great Ulise Joseph ‘Pete’ Desjardins, who won silver at the 1924 Paris Olympics and double gold at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.
Heatly, who grew up in Leith, was 11 when he saw Desjardins dive at an exhibition in Port Seton. Afterwards, he had the chance to speak to his hero, and told him of his budding ambition to be a diver. The Olympian asked to see him dive and offered some tips – and the youngster was hooked.
Entirely self-coached, although a member of Portobello Amateur Swimming Club, by the age of 13 Peter was the East of Scotland champion, holding the title for two years. He was also a Scottish freestyle swimming champion, setting records over 400m and 800m between 1942 and 1946.
His first gold medal came at the 1950 British Empire Games in Auckland, where he led the pack in the platform and won a silver for springboard in the same event. In 1954, at the British and Empire Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, he won gold in the 3m springboard event and bronze in the 10m platform.
Peter won his final gold in the 10m platform at the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, after which he retired from competition. He was awarded a CBE in 1971 and knighted in 1990. He died in Edinburgh in 2015 aged 91.
As well as the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, he is an inductee of the Scottish Swimming Hall of Fame (2010) and the International Swimming Hall of Fame (2016). Sir Peter’s grandson James has upheld his diving legacy, winning a first Commonwealth medal in Gold Coast, Australia in 2018.
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