Kiwi athlete Cantwell dies in Tahitian hospital
New Zealand athlete Lesley Cantwell has died in hospital after falling seriously ill following the completion of a race walk in Tahiti on Tuesday.
Cantwell, 26, who hailed from Southland, was admitted to hospital after collapsing on her way to a medal presentation after she won a 5000m track walk event at the Oceania Area Track & Field Championships in Papeete city.
She passed away at 9am this morning after her family had arrived in Tahiti with assistance of Athletics New Zealand.
It is understood she suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage but an autopsy will have to be carried out to confirm this.
In a show of support for Cantwell - who has a three-year-old daughter - the 50 other New Zealand athletes in competition in Tahiti decided to wear arm bands with the athlete's number written on their arms.
In a statement released this afternoon 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 had a fine record in athletics winning the New Zealand junior championship 3000m race walk title in 2006 and representing New Zealand in a Trans-Tasman test match with Australia in 2011.
Her victory in Tahiti was the biggest of her career and a major boost to her hopes of representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year.
Speaking earlier in the week Athletics Southland manager Lance Smith said Lesley 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.
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.