It was an extraordinary golden double whammy, spanning less than an hour. And yet, it continues to live on, inspiring New Zealanders more than half a century later.

September 2, 1960, is revered as one of New Zealands greatest days at an Olympic Games. On the red cinder track inside the Stadio Olympico in Rome, 21-year-old virtual unknown middle distance runner Peter Snell surged in the final straight to clinch gold in the 800m.  Within half an hour, the experienced, level-headed Murray Halberg, buoyed by Snells victory, won the 5000m to complete an unforgettable track double.

Two victories in an hour in major track events have suffused the country with a golden glow of pride, the New Zealand Herald remarked at the time.

New Zealand middle distance runner Angie Petty looks back to the feats of Snell and Halberg for inspiration today. 

They showed me that Kiwis can do it; they still inspire anyone with goals and dreams, proving that if you put in the hard work, your dreams really can come true, says Petty, who last week ran in the womens 800m semifinal at the IAAF world championships.  Id love to follow in their footsteps and be part of New Zealands middle distance legacy.

Growing up in Lower Hutt, 2008 Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis had an insatiable appetite for watching old footage or reading books of New Zealands middle distance Olympic heroes Jack Lovelock, Snell, Halberg and John Walker.

Rod Dixon, a bronze medallist in the same event at the 1972 Olympics, says he too was inspired by Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, and the other great New Zealand runners of that era. I remember standing for hours outside their hotel in Nelson waiting to get their autograph.

Track runners arent the only New Zealand athletes who have been motivated to go on to greatness by the Golden Hour.

Hockey icon Jeff Archibald, who won gold at the 1976 Olympics, remembers listening to Snell and Halbergs 1960 victories on the radio as an eight-year-old, and was fortunate enough to watch footage of Snells double gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics on a neighbours television set.

Im not sure of my earliest memories of the Olympics, but I was very much aware of Peter Snell, Archibald recalls.  Snell became a life-long hero for Archibald, who also made it his goal to one day reach the pinnacle of his sport - the Olympic Games.  He competed at three.

As a young boy, sailor Craig Monk read a book his father gave him about Snells exploits, No Bugles, No Drums. I read all about his training methods that were a world first, Monk says, revolutionary coaching regime by another legend of the sport, Arthur Lydiard. It was almost mythical to me, and gave me huge national pride at an early age. 

The bronze medallist in the Finn at the 1992 Barcelona games was also very much influenced by John Walker: I idolised him and would even dress up as him in a black tracksuit with long hair as a 10 year old, Monk says.

Walker, of course, had Snell and Halberg as role models in his illustrious athletics career. When he received his knighthood in 2009, Walker said as a young boy growing up in Manurewa, he had taken so much from Snells book, reading it 15 times.

Walker modelled himself on Snell, and stayed with him for two weeks in the United States before he won his own Olympic 1500m gold in Montreal in 1976. Halberg inspired Walker with his sheer guts and determination.

Even modern-day All Blacks have been touched by the magic of the Golden Hour. In 2012 the All Blacks played Italy on the site of the magical double, the hallowed Stadio Olimpico. The monumental history of the 705,000 seat stadium was not lost on Kieran Read, who captained New Zealand for the first time in that test.

Its one of the greatest moments in New Zealands Olympic history.  They are two sporting legends and there is no bigger feat than a gold medal so to be playing in the same arena with a lot of history, its amazing, he told New Zealand journalists at the time. The All Blacks, invigorated by the memories of New Zealand victories past, won 42-10.




Peter Snell
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