Peter Snell

Biographical information

Medals OG
Gold 3
Silver 0
Bronze 0
Total 3
RolesCompeted in Olympic Games • Other
Full namePeter George•Snell
Used namePeter•Snell
Born17 December 1938 in Opunake (NZL)
Died12 December 2019 in Dallas, Texas (USA)
Measurements179 cm / 80 kg
NOC New Zealand


Three-time Olympic champion and world record-holder, Peter Snell is one of New Zealand’s greatest athletes, and some say the greatest. He was little-known outside of Auckland when he went to the Rome Olympics in 1960 but he became an instant national celebrity when he won the 800 metres, an hour before training partner Murray Halberg also won Olympic gold in the 5,000 metres. Both were coached by Arthur Lydiard. Two years later, Snell set a world mile record in Wanganui and a week later set new world marks in Christchurch for the 800 metres and 880 yards. Later the same year, he won the mile and 880 yards at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Perth, but his team was eliminated in the heats of the 4×440 yards relay. In 1964, he successfully defended his Olympic 800 metres title and won the 1500 metres as well. In November 1964, he set world records for the 1000 metres and the mile and then retired from track in 1965. He was twice voted Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News and in January 1970, was chosen as their Athlete of the Decade for the 1960s.

Snell moved to live in the United States in the 70s where he gained a doctorate in exercise physiology at Washington State University. He was able to do that by using money he had made in winning the “Superstars,” a made-for-TV event in the US pitting top athletes from various sports against each other in an all-around type competition. He became director of the Human Performance Centre at the University of Texas Southwestern in 1990. In 2000 Snell was voted New Zealand’s Sports Champion of the 20th Century. He was made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001 and was later known as Sir Peter Snell.

Personal Bests: 800 – 1:44.3 (1962); 1500 – 3:37.6 (1964).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1960 Summer Olympics Athletics NZL Peter Snell
800 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1964 Summer Olympics Athletics NZL Peter Snell
800 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1,500 metres, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold

Other participations

Games Role NOC As
1964 Summer Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony NZL Peter Snell

Special Notes