Profile Born on 17 December 1938 in Opunake, New Zealand, Peter George Snell was one of the best middle-distance runners of the 1960s. In 1964, in Tokyo, the tall, broad-shouldered Snell, looking more like a rugby star than a runner, became the first man since 1920 to win gold medals at both the 800m and 1500m at the same Olympics. Four years earlier he had won his first gold, in the 800 metres at the Rome Olympics.
At the absolute height of his career, Snell stunned New Zealand and the athletics world as he decided to quit and pursue other goals in life. When he ended his career in 1965 as a 26-year-old, Snell was a triple Olympic champion, a double gold medal winner at the Commonwealth Games, and he had set multiple world records, most notably at the 800m and 1000m.
Snell developed into an allround sportsman at a very young age, taking up several different sports, like tennis, cricket, rugby, badminton and golf. At age 19, however, Snell was motivated to try his hand more seriously at running by the comments of his future coach, Arthur Lydiard, who told him, "Peter, with the sort of speed you’ve got, if you do the endurance training, you could be one of our best middle-distance runners".
In 1960, Snell arrived at the Olympics in Rome as a relatively unknown middle-distance runner. Yet, after he had made a name for himself by beating world record holder Roger Moens in the 800m semi-finals, he disposed off Moens once again in the final to claim the gold medal. Four years later at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he was particularly dominant as he won gold medals at both the 800m and 1500m.