Peter Snell is New Zealander of the Year for his great feat in winning gold medals in the 800m and 1500m at the Rome Olympics.

"By his dazzling double in Tokyo, P.G. Snell has run even more triumphantly into Olympic history and into the hearts of his countrymen," said the Herald.

Such a victory, it said, could be won only by a phenomenal athlete.

"Snell is precisely such a phenomenon, a man who has reached the pinnacle by building an iron physique with a will of steel. He is an exceptional runner and a fine young man. His example, it can be hoped, will inspire others."

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The judgment was endorsed with hindsight when, on the eve of the 2012 Olympics, senior Herald sports reporters Dylan Cleaver and David Leggat put Snell's achievement in perspective.

"He is considered, by some distance, to be the greatest athlete this country has produced - not a bad tag to have when you consider that the names of Lovelock, Walker and Adams are writ large across New Zealand's track and field history," they wrote.