Peter Snell stands at the top of New Zealand sport. In 2000 he was voted New Zealand Athlete of the Century. In 1990, at the inaugural New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame induction, he was given the privilege of being the first person honoured.
Three Olympic gold medals, two Empire Games golds, a clutch of world records and no defeats in major races is a mighty record. Twice he was Sportsman of the Year. He was named 1960s Athlete of the Decade by the authoritative Track & Field News.
Along with Murray Halberg and the other outstanding pupils of master coach Arthur Lydiard, Snell was responsible for the finest era in New Zealand athletics. Massive crowds flocked to see him, not just in the main centres, but in Wanganui, Invercargill, Tokoroa and Masterton.
There were so many shining moments in his career that it is difficult to single out a highlight, but he nominates two.
"The first was the final of the Olympic 800m at Rome in 1960," he says. "I was just 21 and when I burst through to win the final from Roger Moens, the world record-holder, I was stunned. I went to Rome hoping to make the final. It was hard to believe that suddenly I was an Olympic champion. I recall looking up to the giant results board above the track and seeing P G Snell NZL at the top of the list. That was one of the great thrills of my life."
Snell's magic afternoon at Rome was completed half an hour later when Murray Halberg won the 5000m gold medal. New Zealand really did rule the stadium that day.Read more