NZ History Makers


In 1959 this man was running a 100 miles a week but there was no other reason for New Zealand to take any notice of him. That was about to change for Peter Snell.

Peter Heidenstrom: He was very little known outside of athletics. Everybody in athletics knew that he was promising.

Marie Berry: This letter came from Peter in Rome before his race in the Olympics.
Joe McManamon, the manager, was anxious that my performances do not get known outside New Zealand so that the element of surprise will be another advantage to me.

He surprised everyone winning gold in the 800m.

Snell: I am 21 years old, not expected to do anything. I end up coming home with a Gold medal. That was…that is the thing I remember most.
New Zealand, now knew about Snell and he embarked on a record-breaking year.

In 1962 I was fully healthy and I think was able to show what my capabilities were on the track. . In Wanganui in January 1962 Snell broke the world record for a mile and what was more incredible, it was on a grass track.

Snell: People who showed up to watch and myself, it was a night of magic.

A week later in Christ church, Snell broke two more world records. His 800m time still stands as the Oceania record. And if had won run that time in the 2004 Olympics, he would have won gold. He topped off his incredible year with a couple of Golds in the Empire Games.

Heidenstrom: His technique was to follow. When he got a sight of the finish line, he just switched on the power. And that was that.
And that was that

It really did seem that simple. Snell gives credit to his coach, Arthur Lydiard, who
Insisted on Snell running a 100 miles every week. A radical concept, but the one that worked.

Snell: The greatest achievements I think was two Gold medals in Tokyo. It involved 6 races in 8 days. Definitely the greatest achievement.

The Australian coach did not like it.

Heidenstrom: He complained loudly. He said Snell should be reported to the stewards for not trying. He just won a double Gold medal and he did everything wellwrong. And he wasn’t even trying. So what can you say about a man like that?

Joseph Romanos: The thing that does it for me for Peter Snell is that he never lost a major race. He went through 2 Olympics, Commonwealth Games, various World Tours and he always produced in big occasions.