Sir Peter Snell
Sir Peter Snell says he is honoured by the high esteem in
which he is held in New Zealand, despite comments which led to
suggestions he is resentful over his treatment by some in this
In an email, he said although he might have been frustrated
and disappointed in the past, "I have long gotten over it".
Speaking in Barcelona last weekend, Sir Peter was asked why
he settled in the United States after moving there to study.
"As far as New Zealand was concerned, when they made me their
athlete of the 20th century they said, 'Well why is he in the
"I said, 'Well, no one seemed interested in having my talents
in New Zealand'."
Sir Peter compared his treatment to that of yachtsman Sir
Russell Coutts when he left to lead Switzerland's Alinghi to
America's Cup glory in 2003.
A Herald editorial on Tuesday described Snell's lasting
resentment as "deeply sad".
Responding to that comment, Sir Peter said: "Firstly, I am
very honoured by and grateful for the high esteem in which I
am held by many New Zealanders. I regret that they might be
offended by my off-the-cuff remarks in Barcelona, which were
not provoked by bitterness."
Regarding the treatment of Sir Russell, he said: "This
episode reminds me of the days when athletics were run by
powerful administrators who exuded self-importance, not
understanding or appreciating the sacrifices made by athletes
and coaches to produce world-class results.
"There are consequences from the myopia of such officials.
The most dramatic example of this was the capitulation of the
NZ America's Cup syndicate that led to Russell Coutts' taking
the cup for Switzerland."
Sir Peter said he was merely trying to answer the questions
of journalists as truthfully as possible.
"I do not harbour a 40-year-old grudge and do not feel that
NZ owes me a living.
"I have enjoyed a very satisfying career here in Dallas and
am still working at the age of 73. What I regret is that as a
young man I did not have the opportunity to develop skills
that would have led to a satisfying career in NZ.
"I truly miss having the opportunity to make a favourable
impact on NZ society. I often feel that I could have made a
difference in the lives of many New Zealanders, especially in
exercise and its health-related benefits, had I been there."
Sir Peter said he felt very proud that among such elite
company in Barcelona, he was representing the outstanding NZ
middle and distance-running heritage.
"I was incredibly honoured to represent New Zealand at the
IAAF ceremonies," he said. "I continue to be proud to call
New Zealand my homeland."
Sir Peter won the Olympic 800m title in Rome in 1960 and the
800m and 1500m golds in Tokyo four years later.
- Terry Maddaford of the New Zealand Herald