Community rallies around Cantwell family

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2013
Lesley Cantwell
Fairfax NZ
CRITICAL: Lesley Cantwell collapsed while on her way to the podium after winning a small event in Tahiti.

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The Te Anau community is set to rally around the Cantwell family after daughter Lesley collapsed and was taken to hospital in a critical condition following her race-walking event at the Oceana athletics championships in Tahiti earlier this week.

Shaun and Judy Cantwell were scheduled to arrive in Tahiti last night where Lesley was on life support in hospital after falling seriously ill on the way to a medal presentation after her win in the 5000m track walk on Tuesday.

Te Anau constable and club captain of the Fiordland Athletics Club Dwight Grieve said news of Lesley's sudden illness had come as a huge shock.

"I couldn't believe it when I heard it yesterday. We'd been messaging Lesley in Tahiti just wishing her luck and following her updates and we just can't believe it, it's so unfair," Grieve said.

"It's going to hit the place pretty hard. We are a close-knit community, for starters, let alone the group within the club. We just love Lesley, with the way she gets stuck in with us. She was always one for the team, she had her goals and what she was training for, but when it came to anything for the club she would always turn up and be part of the team."

The Fiordland club had undergone a resurgence in recent years, with numbers climbing from less than 20 to more than 50.

World masters record holder Gail Kirkman is a club member, while Cantwell's strong form had fuelled her ambitions of trying to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, Grieve said.

Te Anau would mobilise to support Lesley's parents Shaun, the deputy principal at Fiordland College and local athletics coach, and Judy, a former national athletics title-holder, he said.

"We'd do whatever we can to help them out. The Cantwell family do so much for the Te Anau community, not only with the school, but the amount of voluntary hours that that family put in, it's just phenomenal. It's just hard to fathom how the unfair stuff happens to the best people."

Athletics New Zealand chief executive Scott Newman said there had been no reported improvement in Cantwell's condition.

The Oceania championships, which included a 50-strong New Zealand team, finished yesterday.

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