Wellington Scoop

Peter Snell gives Olympic gold medals, and a running shoe, to Te Papa

Te Papa

News from Te Papa
An emotional Sir Peter Snell said today that gifting objects to Te Papa was an “amazing” experience that helped “ease the guilt” the sporting legend has felt for basing himself overseas.

Sir Peter was welcomed to Te Papa this morning with his wife Miki Snell, daughters Amanda and Jacqui Snell, and granddaughters Sam and Jodi Snell.

His granddaughters and daughters carried in boxes containing the items he is gifting, which include Olympic gold medals and a shoe which Snell wore when winning gold in Rome, made for him by Arthur Lydiard.

The Olympic great wiped away tears as Te Papa staff sang waiata in his honour.

“This is an emotional moment for me,” Sir Peter said, speaking on Te Papa’s marae in front of family, friends and old running colleagues. “This has allowed me to feel that New Zealanders know I love this country, and this is proof of it.”

Sir Peter said he had been moved to donate the items after hearing that Te Papa had bid on the sale of a singlet, thought to be the one he wore at the Tokyo Olympics. The singlet was withdrawn from sale when it was found not to be authentic.

“I’m totally touched by this whole experience, and everything Te Papa has done. I can’t really express enough my appreciation enough for what has happened here today.”

Sir Peter said he would not miss having the items at home, and that the whole family was happy with the decision.

“I’m past looking at it in the cabinet and so on. I don’t need the actual physical things to look at. It will stop a whole lot of family arguments down the line,” Sir Peter joked.

After the powhiri, Sir Peter opened a display of his two Olympic medals and the Lydiard-made shoe. They are on display at Te Papa until 23 July, along with footage of Snell’s winning races.

Te Papa Chief Executive Rick Ellis acknowledged Sir Peter’s gift. “The items which we are putting on display at Te Papa today encapsulate Sir Peter’s stellar career,” Mr Ellis said. “The story that these objects have to tell is not only one of talent and triumph, but a story of hard work and determination, of research and ingenuity, and of teamwork.”

Sir Peter Snell and his family will have a private viewing of Te Papa’s Gallipoli: The Scale of our War, before heading to Auckland for the Masters Games. Sir Peter and Miki Snell are both competing in table tennis at the games, including as a mixed doubles pair.

Earlier News from Te Papa
Sporting legend Sir Peter Snell has donated 14 items from his personal collection to Te Papa, including two Olympic gold medals, from the 800m in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, and the 800m in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The most unusual item gifted by Sir Peter is a shoe he wore while winning gold at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games. The right shoe was made for Snell by running coach Arthur Lydiard, and bears Lydiard’s signature.

Sir Peter, his wife, two daughters and two granddaughters were welcomed on to Te Papa’s marae this morning. After the powhiri, a display was opened at the museum, featuring the two Olympic gold medals and the shoe. These three items will be on show at Te Papa until 23 July, and all fourteen items will be part of New Zealand’s national history collection in perpetuity.

Te Papa Chief Executive Rick Ellis said the museum was humbled by Sir Peter’s decision to donate the items to the national collection.

“Te Papa is incredibly excited to receive these pieces of our sporting history, and be able to share them with New Zealanders,” Mr Ellis said. “We are looking forward to welcoming Sir Peter and his family onto our marae, and celebrating his gift to the nation.”

“As well as seeing these items up close and personal in the museum, Te Papa can bring Peter Snell’s story to life, using video and digital storytelling. Every kid in New Zealand will be able to get a taste of the determination and grit that took Sir Peter Snell to the top.”

Te Papa History Curator Stephanie Gibson says the items are incredibly significant for New Zealand.

“These objects represent not only the pinnacle of Sir Peter’s career, but the absolute pinnacle of New Zealand’s sporting history.”

Ms Gibson has been working closely with Sir Peter to put arrangements in place for the donation.

“Sir Peter has been so generous with his time and we are really humbled that he has chosen Te Papa as the place to care for these treasured items,” said Stephanie Gibson.

In June 2016 Te Papa bid at auction for a singlet thought to be that worn by Snell at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. The singlet was withdrawn from sale by the auction house after the museum raised doubts about its authenticity.

Items gifted by Sir Peter Snell

Items which will be displayed at Te Papa from 18 April – 23 July

– Rome Olympic Games gold medal, 1960, 800m.
– Tokyo Olympic Games gold medal, 1964, 800m.
– Shoe made by Arthur Lydiard, worn in Rome for winning race, 1960

Additional items being gifted by Sir Peter

– (3 x objects) World Record plaques awarded by the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF), 1961-62
– Tankard for the mile world record in Whanganui, 1962
– New Zealand Sportsman of the Year Award trophy, 1960 and 1964
– Sydney Olympic Games torch, 2000
– (2 x objects) Insignia of the Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) (badge and breast star), 2002
– Order of the British Empire (OBE) (1965)
– (2 x objects) British Empire and Commonwealth Games gold medals, Perth, 1962. 800 yards and one mile.

About the shoe
Garth Gilmour’s 2004 book Arthur Lydiard: Master Coach gives an account of Snell’s decision to wear the Lydiard shoes in Rome, rather than the Adidas ones given to prospective medallists. He describes how Lydiard added an extra rubber wedge to the shoes’ heels to counteract the jarring effect of the cinder track, compared to a grass surface Snell was familiar with. Lydiard was knowledgeable about athletic shoes, having worked for 24 years in an Auckland shoe factory.

About Peter Snell
Peter Snell is arguably New Zealand’s most significant athlete, and was voted New Zealand Athlete of the Century in 2000. During his running career, he won three Olympic gold medals, two Empire Games gold medals, a clutch of world records and no defeats in his major races. He was Sportsman of the Year twice and 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 up to 30,000 would flock to see him in the early 1960s.

In the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, Snell won gold for the 800m (followed half an hour later by Murray Halberg winning the 5000m). In 1962, Snell smashed the world records for 880 yards and 800m in Christchurch. The times he set that day remain New Zealand records five decades later. Then in 1964, Snell topped his career by running a rare 800m-1500m gold medal double at the Tokyo Olympics. He retired from competitive running in 1965. He moved to the United States in the 1970s to pursue a successful academic career in exercise physiology. In 2002 he was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and became Sir Peter Snell in 2009.