Peter Snell arrived at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome as a relatively little known middle-distance runner. He attracted attention by defeating 800m world record holder Roger Moens of Belgium in the semifinals.
A stunned winner
However, Moens had not extended himself, so he remained the favourite. In the final, he took the lead 100m from the finish and appeared headed for victory. But in the homestretch, Snell charged ahead on the inside and crossed the finish line with his eyes closed. When he discovered that he had won, Snell was so stunned that he did not take a victory lap.
In one week in 1962, Snell set world records in both the mile and the 800m.
First since 1920
He arrived at the next edition of the Games, in 1964, as the favourite. In the 800m final, Snell moved to the outside after 550m, stormed around the leaders and pulled away to win by four metres. Five days later, he raced in the final of the 1,500m. He was boxed in when the bell rang to signal the beginning of the last lap. John Whetton of Great Britain stepped aside and allowed Snell to pass on the inside. Snell ran away from the field on the backstretch and won by 11 metres. Peter Snell is the first man since 1920 to win the 800m and the 1,500m at the same Olympic Games.