Three-time Olympic champion and world record-holder, Snell is one of New Zealand’s greatest sports achievers, 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. Both were coached by Hall of Famer 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 Commonwealth Games and 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 retired in 1965.
Snell moved to live in the United States in the 70s where he gained a doctorate and he has been director of the Human Performance Centre at the University of Texas since 1990.
Snell in 2000 was voted New Zealand’s Sports Champion of the 20th Century.