New Zealand running great Peter Snell, a triple Olympic gold medallist, has died at the age of 80, sports historian Ron Palenski said yesterday.
Palenski, a close friend, said Snell’s wife Miki had phoned him from their home in Dallas to tell him of the death.
The couple were preparing to go shopping when “Peter nodded off, as is not unusual for him. But he didn’t wake up,” Palenski said.
Snell, a protege of famed coach Arthur Lydiard, was the most dominant middle-distance runner of his era.
He won gold in the only three Olympic events he contested -- the 800 metres at Rome in 1960 and the 800m and 1500m in Tokyo four years later -- set world records for the mile and 800m and also won dual gold at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth.
He was the first male athlete to win the 800m-1500m double at an Olympics since 1920, a feat that has not been achieved by any male since.
Shell was voted New Zealand’s “Sports Champion of the Century” and was one of 24 inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall Of Fame.