Golden hour for Kiwi runners in Rome

2 September 1960

Peter Snell wins the 800 m at the Rome Olympics, 1960 (NZ Olympics Committee)

New Zealand sport enjoyed one of its greatest days in Rome’s Olympic Stadium. Peter Snell won the 800 m, and Murray Halberg won the 5000 m.

Snell was ranked 26th in the world. Cannily coached by Arthur Lydiard, he cruised through the three qualifying rounds, running impressive times.

The final was run at a red-hot pace. The favourite, Belgian world record-holder Roger Moens, took the lead with 100 m to go and seemed certain to win until Snell surged past him on the inside. When he realised he had won in Olympic record time, Snell was too stunned to take a victory lap.

Minutes later, Halberg lined up in the 5000 m, for which he had qualified easily. Running to a plan set by Lydiard, he burst ahead of the field with three laps to go and hung on to the finish before collapsing on the infield, completely spent.

Amid the excitement, New Zealander Valerie Sloper (later Young) narrowly missed out on a medal in the women’s shot put, which was going on at the same time.