News: Sir Peter Snell gifts his medals and shoe to the nation

5 April 2017

Sporting legend and New Zealand national treasure Sir Peter Snell has donated 14 items from his personal collection to us, including two Olympic gold medals and one of his shoes.

The gold medals are from the 800m in the 1960 Rome Olympic Games and from either the 800m or 1500m in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games (the medals are not inscribed).

Other items being donated include his Order of the British Empire, the torch he carried during the lead-up to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, and an engraved tankard for the world mile record in Whanganui in 1962.

The most unusual item being gifted is a shoe Sir Peter wore when 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.

The shoe holds extra significance due to Sir Peter’s loyalty to it. A rank-outsider going into the Rome Olympic Games, he missed out on a gift of running shoes from adidas which all the other contenders received.

When Sir Peter won the semi-final, he turned down the offer for a pair of adidas shoes and went on to win gold in Lydiard’s shoes.

A special display will open here on 18 April, featuring the two Olympic gold medals and the shoe. These three items will be on show until 23 July, and all 14 items will be part of New Zealand’s national history collection in perpetuity.

Peter Snell's shoe, as designed by Arthur Lydiard, 2017. Photograph by Mike O'Neill. Te Papa

Rongomaraeroa is unique within the motu (land). It is our response to the challenge of creating an authentic yet inclusive marae (meeting place) and communal meeting place for Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Detail of Peter Snell's shoe, as designed by Arthur Lydiard, 2017. Photograph by Mike O'Neill. Te Papa

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Peter Snell's gold medal from Tokyo, 2017. Photograph by Mike O'Neill. Te Papa

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Peter Snell's gold medal from Rome, 2017. Photograph by Mike O'Neill. Te Papa

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We’re incredibly humbled by Sir Peter’s decision to donate the items to the national collection.

Chief Executive Rick Ellis said that Sir Peter was excited about the opportunity to share the items, and their stories, with young New Zealanders.

“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,” Mr Ellis said.

“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.”

The items are incredibly significant for New Zealand.

“These objects represent not only the pinnacle of Sir Peter’s career,” said history curator Stephanie Gibson, “but for many are 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,” Ms Gibson said.

The whereabouts of the matching shoe is unknown. It was made into a trophy called ‘The Shoe’ (in homage to ‘The Boot’ trophy in rugby honouring Don Clarke). ‘The Shoe’ was awarded in athletic competitions between Bay of Plenty schools.

If you happen to have spotted it recently, please get in touch!

Items to be gifted by Sir Peter Snell

Items which will be displayed at Te Papa from 18 April – 23 July 2017:

  • 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:

  • 3x World Record plaques awarded by the International Amateur Athletic Federation, 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

  • Insignia of the Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (badge and breast star), 2002

  • Order of the British Empire (1965)

  • 2x British Empire and Commonwealth Games gold medals, Perth, 1962 (800 yards and one mile)