Lesley Cantwell, a member of the Athletics New Zealand team at the Oceania Area Athletics Championships in Tahiti has past away in a Papeete Hospital.
Cantwell (26), from Te Anau won the Oceania women’s 5000 metres race walking title on Tuesday and while she was waiting for the medal ceremony, two hours after the race, she felt unwell and collapsed. She was taken to the hospital where she remained on life support.
Cantwell’s family arrived in Papeete on Thursday night and she passed away at 9am this morning (Friday).
It is understood that Lesley suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage, although an autopsy will be conducted to confirm this.
Winning the Oceania title was the biggest result in her career and was a significant step in her goal to represent New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games.
The other fifty members in the team all decided to continue at the championships in support of Lesley, and competed wearing arm-bands and her race number written on their arms.
Athletics New Zealand CEO Scott Newman said “This is a very sad time for Lesley’s family, friends and the team. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her in the athletics world, but particularly the close-knit race walking community.”
Cantwell (26), a member of Fiordland Athletic Club was one of New Zealand’s top race walkers, having won numerous honours at New Zealand championships during her career, including two medals at the New Zealand Track and Field Championships in March and four medals at New Zealand Championship events in 2012.
She won the New Zealand junior championship 3000 metres race walk title in 2006 and represented New Zealand in a Trans-Tasman test match with Australia in Hobart in 2011.
Cantwell’s father Shaun is a well respected athletics coach and deputy principal at Fiordland College in Te Anau, while her mother Jude won the New Zealand women’s 1500 metres title in 1989.
Athletics New Zealand, the New Zealand team management, Oceania Athletics Association and the Honorary Consul in Papeete have been providing significant support to Lesley’s family both in New Zealand and in Tahiti.
Cantwell leaves behind a three year old daughter, Brooke. Athletics New Zealand has set up a fund for Brooke and donations can be made through the ASB Bank to account 12-3192-0002433-05.
Oceania Athletics Association sends our most sincere condolences to Lesley's family, friends and fellow athletes and teammates.
Recent performances for Lesley Cantwell
1st Oceania Championships 5000m June 2013 25.39.79 (personal best)
2nd NZ 20km Race Walk Championships 1:51:26 (personal best)
3rd NZ 3000m Championships 14:35.40 (personal best)
2nd NZ 3000m Championships 15:17.42
3rd NZ 20km Championships 1:55:56
3rd NZ 10km Road Walk Championships 55:11
2nd NZ 15km Road Walk Championships 1:23:59