Southland athlete Cantwell passes away

04:11, Jun 07 2013
Lesley Cantwell
SHOCK PASSING: New Zealand athlete Lesley Cantwell has died in a Tahitian hospital.

New Zealand athlete Lesley Cantwell has died after being in a critical condition in a Tahitian hospital for the past four days.

The nationally-ranked Te Anau race walker, 26, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday after collapsing on her way to a medal presentation after she won a 5000m track walk event at the Oceania track and field championships in Papeete city.

Cantwell was surrounded by her parents, brother, three-year-old daughter and partner when she died at 9am this morning.

It’s understood Cantwell suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage, although an autopsy would be required to confirm that.

In a show of support for Cantwell members of the 50-strong New Zealand team in competition in Tahiti decided to wear arm bands with the athlete's number written on their arm. 


Cantwell’s win on Tuesday was the best result of her career and a boost to her ambitions of representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games.

Cantwell's mother, Jude, was New Zealand 1500m champion in 1989 while her father Shaun is an athletics coach and deputy principal at Fiordland College.

Athletics NZ chief executive 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.’’

A member of the Fiordland Athletics Club, Cantwell was a medal winner at the New Zealand track and field championships in March.

She won the New Zealand junior championship 3000m race walk title in 2006 and represented New Zealand in a trans-Tasman test match with Australia in Hobart in 2011.

Speaking earlier this week Athletics Southland manager Lance Smith said Cantwell was a respected member of the Southland athletics community.

Her dedication to training, despite her nearest competition living in Dunedin, was a credit to her, he said.

Athletics NZ has set up a fund for Cantwell's daughter Brooke and donations can be made through the ASB Bank, account number 12-3192-0002433-05

The Southland Times