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Sportsperson Of The Century Carries Torch

Sportsperson Of The Century Carries The Torch For The `Third Age



New Zealand's Sportsperson of the Century Peter Snell visits New Zealand next week (June 4 - 10) to promote positive aging and the rich possibilities of the `third age' of life.

Snell will meet with groups working in the area of positive aging and present lessons from his research and experience in the public health field. He will also take part in the Olympic torch celebrations in the build-up to the Sydney 2000 games. Snell captained New Zealand's Olympic team to the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games where he won gold medals in the 800 and 1500 metre events, following his 800 metre gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960.

His visit to New Zealand follows remarks he made accepting his Sportsperson of the Century award in February in which he indicated he would like to return to New Zealand at some point. Snell, an exercise physiologist, is currently on the faculty of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, where he is director of the Human Performance laboratory.

Snell's research focus has evolved from an interest in athletic performance to public health issues associated with physical inactivity - obesity, adult-onset diabetes and coronary heart disease - and in particular the use of exercise to enhance the quality of life in older adults. "In the US there is a strong focus on positive aging, or what has been dubbed the `third age' of life," says Snell. "These are the years when we are freed from the duties of raising a family; a time perhaps to pursue a road not taken."

Snell says that popular culture the world over has produced an increasingly youth-oriented world. "I sense New Zealand, probably more so that the US, believes `old age' is a negative state. Empowering those nearing retirement age to postpone `old age' and embrace the possibilities of the `third age' is my goal."

The term `third age' comes from the French term `troisieme age', a term used by European academics for the stage of maturity after growing up and the other-directed responsibilities of middle adulthood are completed. ( It is broadly applied to people aged 50-years-old and older.

"I have travelled in the US giving lectures and seminars on exercise and positive aging issues. Now I have been offered an opportunity to communicate this vision, and share my philosophy with New Zealanders," says Snell. "My wish is to tap into work that is already ongoing and to support groups and organisations confronting `third age' issues."

Snell will hold a presentation on June 8 with representatives of groups working in this field, and will record a series of television public service messages on the subject.

An exhibition `Peter Snell Olympian' opens at the Olympic Museum in Wellington today (June 2, 2000), featuring an extended interview with Snell as well as photographs from his career. (Exhibition information: Charles Callis, Curator Olympic Museum, 025 913397)


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