Beatrice Faumuina wins athletics world championship gold

7 August 1997

Caricature of Beatrice Faumuina, c. 1997-1999 (Alexander Turnbull Library, DX-001-323)

Beatrice Faumuina became the first New Zealander to win an event at a World Athletics Championships when she threw the discus 66.82 m, 92 cm further than her closest rival, Ellina Zvereva of Belarus, at Athens in 1997.

Faumuina’s unexpected victory was the pinnacle of a career which also featured two gold medals (1998, 2002) and a silver (1994) at Commonwealth Games, and wins at a World Cup athletics meeting (2002) and an Oceania Championships (2010). Her longest throw of 68.52 m a month before her World Championships victory ensured that she was ranked as world no. 1 for 1997 by the authoritative Track and Field News. She made the top 10 in six of the next eight years.

An Aucklander of Samoan descent, Beatrice Faumuina was honoured with a Samoan stamp after her 2002 Commonwealth Games victory at Manchester. She was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005 for services to athletics. In recent years she has been a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, a presenter for the TVNZ current events show Tagata Pasifika, a contestant on Dancing with the stars, and CEO of the BEST Pasifika Leadership Academy and Charitable Foundation.

The only other New Zealand medallist at a World Championships, which were first held in 1983 and now take place in odd-numbered years, has been shot-putter Valerie Adams. Her surprise third place in 2005 signalled her arrival among the élite of the discipline. A narrow victor in 2007, she enjoyed a wider margin in 2009 and won by more than 1 m in 2011 and 47 cm in 2013.

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