Whanganui is in for a golden influx with two of Sir Peter Snell's Olympic Games' medals taking up temporary residence in the city from Thursday, November 9.

Snell was one of the athletes responsible for New Zealand's finest era in athletics, winning three Olympic gold medals, two Empire Games golds and setting a clutch of world records.

His connection to Whanganui is legendary. At Cooks Gardens on 27 January 1962, Snell set a new world mile record of 3 minutes 54.4 seconds. It was the heyday of athletics, with the race watched by a 15,000-strong crowd who leaped from their seats and sang For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.

The world record followed on from Snell's success at the Rome Olympics in 1960 where he won the 800m. New Zealand celebrated again later that same afternoon when Murray Halberg won the 5000m gold medal.


Four years later in Tokyo, Snell again won the 800m, setting a new Olympic record, and also took out the 1500m gold.

He was named 1960s Athlete of the Decade by the authoritative Track & Field News and in 2000 was voted New Zealand Athlete of the Century.

In March this year Sir Peter gifted some of his medals and other items to Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand. Te Papa is loaning some of the memorabilia to the Whanganui Regional Museum where it will be on display until February 2018.

The items are the 1960 Rome Olympic Games 800m gold medal, 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games 800m gold medal, the world record plaque for the fastest mile and the tankard for the mile world record set in Whanganui.

Te Papa history curator Stephanie Gibson says the items are "incredibly significant" for New Zealand.

"These objects represent not only the pinnacle of Sir Peter's career, but the absolute pinnacle of New Zealand's sporting history."

The items will be displayed alongside Whanganui Regional Museum's own Peter Snell trophy which depicts the athlete alongside the shell casing from the starting gun that began his world record run. The trophy was presented to Snell's parents by the Wanganui Amateur Athletic and Cycling Club.