Sir Peter Snell's Olympic gold medals find new home in Te Papa

Former Olympic champion Sir Peter Snell has donated two gold medals among other items to Wellington's Te Papa.

In 2016, Te Papa put in a $120,000 bid to buy a singlet believed to have been worn by Sir Peter Snell. 

The sale fell through after it was revealed as a fake but the high price Te Papa was willing to pay prompted Sir Peter to gift two Olympic gold medals to the museum.

Among the items gifted were a shoe Sir Peter wore at the 1960 Olympics and two of his medals.

Five decades on, the achievements of arguably our greatest athlete still inspires Kiwis like Wellington Girls' College runner Isobel Hegan.

"Especially when you're an 800 runner I feel like it's even more special because you're doing the event and you feel like you're following in his footsteps even though we're nowhere near as good as he is," she says.

Sir Peter gifted a total of 14 items to Te Papa. 

"Just because you're in a small country and community doesn't mean you can't be successful on the world stage," Sir Peter says.

He says perseverance is key to success, at age 17 he wasn't the best runner but by his early 20's he was breaking records and is the only man to win the 800m and 1500m at the same Olympics.

"It was the same academically, I couldn't go to university here but I've ended up with a Ph.D," he says.

Te Papa CEO Rick Ellis says last year's debacle over the fake Sir Peter singlet has turned out to be a blessing.

"Because we were so inspired to want to aquire some of Sir Peter's memorabillia it started a conversation with him directly," he says.

At 78 he is still competing and is competing in the table tennis category at next week's World Masters Games in Auckland.

"Mixed doubles, my wife and I Miki, and we only have to beat one couple in order to get at least a medal so that's our best chance."

Sir Peter will take a greenstone taonga back to the US with him.