Arthur Lydiard played a far greater role in Peter Snell’s life than merely coaching, yet, for a time, the partnership was close to foundering.
Talking from his Dallas home yesterday - just days after he and wife Miki had enjoyed a meal and a chat with Lydiard at a favourite Mexican restaurant - Snell recalls a testy time in his early days with the coach.
"You spend a couple of years doing absolutely everything your coach tells you," Snell said yesterday. "But, at the same time you make your own observations. I did not really enjoy automatically doing what the coach told me to do. Some of what I said was reported back to Arthur.
"His response was basically ‘do what I tell you or move on’. I did what I was told.
"Basically, I was a high-achiever waiting for someone to find me. Arthur did."
The rest quickly became history.
"He had the experience, the vision. He had demonstrated the results. That one hour in Rome when Murray [Halberg] and I won gold remains the most vivid of all my memories," Snell said.
As recently as last month, he was reminded of what that race meant.
"Miki and I were in Belgium as guests and spent a lot of time with Roger Moens. The Belgian people still struggle to understand how their world recordholder and Olympic favourite could be beaten by someone ranked 25th in the world."
It was still regarded as an historic race in a country which has had few athletic stars.
"Even today, 50 per cent of Belgians know who Peter Snell and Arthur Lydiard are."
Snell has moved on to become a world-renowned expert in sports physiology and related subjects, but many of Lydiard’s ideas and philosophies remain with him.
Much of what Lydiard espoused will again be the basis of Snell’s lectures this week.
"Basically, I’m going to tell these people why what he started still works.
"The 1m 44.3s 800m world record I ran in Christchurch in 1962 would have been good enough to win the Olympic final in Athens."
These days, Snell continues to run a few days a week and competes in orienteering events with a brace on his knee.
"Often it is a walk/jog or running at eight-minute mile pace in the lab. Even going for a cycle some days. But, following Arthur’s advice, I still want to do something. I’ll be 66 next week and hope to keep working until I’m 70."
Snell said he did not think it was a great idea for Lydiard to embark on what proved to be his last lecture tour.
"But he went ahead anyway. In many ways, it was probably the way he wanted to go, doing what he knew and loved. He had a great, full life."
By Terry Maddaford Email Terry