Sir Peter George Snell, KNZM, OBE (born 17 December 1938, Opunake) is a former New Zealand middle-distance runner, now resident in Texas, United States. He had one of the shortest careers of world famous international sportsmen, yet achieved so much that he was voted New Zealand’s “Sports Champion of the (20th) Century” and was one of 24 inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall Of Fame named in 2012. A protégé of the great New Zealand athletics coach Arthur Lydiard, Snell is known for the three Olympic and two Commonwealth Games gold medals he won, and the several world records he set.
In January 1962 Snell broke the world mile record before a huge crowd at Cooks Gardens in Whanganui, and one week later set new world records for both the 800 m and 880 yd at Christchurch. He then won gold and set a new record for 880 yd at the Commonwealth Games in Perth in 1962, and won gold for the mile at those same games.
In all, Snell set five individual world records and joined with fellow New Zealand athletes to set a new four by one mile relay record as well. He was at the peak of his career in 1965 and promising much more, when he stunned New Zealand and the athletics world by announcing his retirement to move on to other things.Snell’s former world records of 1 minute 44.3 seconds for 800 m, set on 3 February 1962, and 2 minutes 16.6 seconds for 1000 m set on 12 November 1964, remain the New Zealand national records for these distances. His 800 m record remains the fastest ever run over that distance on a grass track, and is also the oldest national record recognized by the IAAF for a standard track and field event. The 800 m record also remains the official Oceana continental area record.