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Athletics legend Sir Peter Snell confirms donation of Olympic gold medals to Te Papa

Athletics legend Sir Peter Snell has confirmed he will donate 14 items from his personal collection to Te Papa, including two Olympic gold medals for the 800 metres at both the 1960 Rome Olympics and the Tokyo Games four years later.

Snell topped his career by running a rare 800m-1500m gold medal double at those Tokyo Olympics. 

Sir Peter Snell's gold medal from the 1960 Rome Olympics Source: Photo Mike O'Neill

He retired from competitive running in 1965 and moved to the United States in the 1970s to pursue a successful academic career in exercise physiology. 

He was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002, and became Sir Peter Snell in 2009. He was voted New Zealand Athlete of the Century in 2000.

The most unusual item being gifted by Sir Peter is a shoe he wore while winning gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. 

A shoe Peter Snell wore while winning gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Source: Photo Mike O'Neill

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 will be welcomed onto Te Papa's marae at 9am on Tuesday April 18. 

After the powhiri, a special display will be opened at the museum, featuring the two Olympic gold medals and the shoe. 

These three items will be on show at Te Papa from April 18 until July 23 and all 14 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. 

Mr Ellis said 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."

Te Papa History Curator Stephanie Gibson  has been working closely with Sir Peter to put arrangements in place for the donation and 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," she said.

In June last year, Te Papa bid at auction for a singlet thought to be that worn by Snell at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. 

The singlet was withdrawn from sale by the auction house after the museum raised doubts about its authenticity. 

Snell won three golds at the Rome and Tokyo Olympic games. Source: Breakfast


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