Skip to main content

Ministers acknowledge generosity of Sir Peter Snell

Sport and Recreation Minister Jonathan Coleman and Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Maggie Barry have acknowledged the generosity of sporting legend Sir Peter Snell in gifting medals and memorabilia to the nation.

“Sir Peter stands out as the first New Zealander to win and defend multiple Olympic medals. These and many other accomplishments give him a significant place in our sporting history,” says Dr Coleman.

“It is great to celebrate the achievements of Sir Peter and to have him present the 14 items to Te Papa, including his gold medals from Rome and Tokyo.”

“He was just 21 when he won gold in Rome, providing one of the most memorable sporting days in our history.”

Today he gifted his Olympic and Commonwealth medals, the tankard for the mile world record in Whanganui in 1962, the Insignia of the Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and the right shoe he wore winning gold at Rome in 1960.

“These items symbolise not only Sir Peter’s incredible achievements but the determination and grit it took to achieve them,” Ms Barry says.

“Behind every gold medal are many pairs of well-worn running shoes and behind every great achievement are the many miles of the journey to get there. These treasures tell several stories including the connection between the runner and his coach.”

“Among the items gifted today is the right running shoe designed and signed by Arthur Lydiard and it’s an example of those other kiwi traits - innovation and ingenuity. If you can’t find what you need ready-made then you design it and have it made to be fit for purpose.”

“Sir Peter decided to wear the Lydiard shoes in Rome rather than the Adidas ones given to prospective medallists.  An extra rubber wedge was added to the shoes’ heels to counteract the jarring effect of the cinder track which was much harder than the grass surface he was used to.”

The left shoe was made into a trophy called “The Shoe” which Bay of Plenty schools competed for in athletics but has been lost over the years.

“Wouldn’t it be good if someone knew where the left shoe is so they could be re-united and displayed as a pair,” Ms Barry says.

Sir Peter is on his way to Auckland for the table tennis competition at the world’s largest multi-sport event, the Masters Games where more than 25,000 competitors from 28 countries will compete in sports such as rugby, netball, swimming and basketball.

“The exhibition at Te Papa allows people to see these items up close and brings Sir Peter’s story to life, using video, virtual reality and digital storytelling.  Every kiwi kid will be able to get a glimpse of the determination and grit that took Sir Peter Snell to the top,” Ms Barry says.

Items gifted by Sir Peter Snell

  • Rome Olympic Games gold medal, 1960
  • Shoe made by Arthur Lydiard, worn in Rome for winning race, 1960
  • 3 World Record plaques awarded by the International Amateur Athletic Federation  (IAAF), 1961-62
  • Tankard for the mile world record in Whanganui, 1962
  • Tokyo Olympic Games gold medal, 1964
  • New Zealand Sportsman of the Year Award trophy, 1960 and 1964
  • Sydney Olympic Games torch, 2000
  • Insignia of the Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) (badge and breast star), 2002
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1965)
  • British Empire and Commonwealth Games gold medals (2), Perth, 1962

Updated on 19th April 2017