The Cantwell family have been consoled by the huge amount of support they have received from family, friends and even strangers since the death of Lesley Cantwell in Tahiti on Friday.
The 26-year-old mother of one collapsed two hours after winning her 5000m race walk event at the Oceania Track and Field Championships last Tuesday, suffering what doctors believe was a subarachnoid haemorrhage in her brain.
Members of her family, including parents Shaun and Jude, brother Andrew ( formerly of Tokoroa) daughter Brooke, 3, and partner Tony Sargisson arrived in Tahiti on Thursday night and Lesley was taken off life support the next morning.
Lesley’s father, Shaun, who hopes to return to New Zealand with Lesley’s body today, said the support the family had been shown in Tahiti and from those back in New Zealand was extremely comforting.
‘‘A guy from Auckland phoned up and said he didn’t know me but he’d read about Lesley and been moved to tears. He said he comes to Tahiti quite a bit and he’d phoned people he knows to come to the hospital and support Lesley, because she didn’t have family there yet.’’
In an example of the close-knit nature of athletics, and race walking in particular, the daugh- ter of the Cantwells’ former neighbour in Rotorua was competing for Australia against Lesley in Tahiti.
Her mother and daughter were present when Lesley collapsed and offered to go to the hospital with her.
The Tahitian people had been incredibly generous in their support, and Mrs Cantwell also thanked the wider athletics community, Air New Zealand, Air Tahiti, the Department of Internal Affairs and the medical staff who had cared for Lesley, many of whom had gathered outside the room to offer their condolences when she was taken off life support.
There did not appear to be a link between Lesley’s competition and her suspected haemorrhage. Mrs Cantwell said it could have just as easily happened when she was on the couch at home, and there also did not appear to be a link to epilepsy Lesley had suffered since her teens. International Association of Athletics Federations vice-president and four-time Olympic medallist Lord Sebastian Coe had spoken as part of a tribute to Lesley at the championships closing ceremony on Friday, and spoke privately to the Cantwells afterwards.
Athletics New Zealand has set up a fund for Lesley’s daughter, Brooke. Donations can be made through the ASB Bank, account 12-3192-0002433-05.
SAD LOSS: Lesley Cantwell pictured with her daughter Brooke.