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Icon of the West – Beatrice Faumuina

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Beatrice FaumuinaThe accolades keep coming for “Queen Bea”, Beatrice Faumuina ONZM, who now has a Sir Peter Blake Leadership Award acknowledging her as one of six of New Zealand’s outstanding emerging leaders.

The Award recognised Beatrice in her role as CEO of the Best Leadership Academy and Charitable Foundation. The Academy operates in partnership with Auckland University to provide post graduate courses for outstanding emerging leaders of Pacific Islands heritage, that blend business leadership and entrepreneurship.

Sir Peter Blake Trust CEO, Shelley Campbell, said that this year’s award winners have demonstrated “a significant contribution to future proofing New Zealand society”; and that “women, Maori and Pacific leaders are assuming key leadership roles in greater numbers than ever before and achieving remarkable results.”

The Sir Peter Blake Award adds to “Queen Bea’s” ONZN (Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit), her status as a four times Olympian, four times Commonwealth Games competitor with two golds and a silver, a world championship, a Halberg Award, New Zealand Athlete of the Year (twice) and New Zealand Thrower Of The Year. Off the field, she was a member of the New Zealand Olympic Athletes’ Commission, Athlete Ambassador for the International Association of Athletics Federations and Ambassador for the Special Olympics. Outside of sport she is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and semi-finalist in Dancing with the Stars.

That is an already exceptional record of achievement for a woman who is not yet 40.

Beatrice Faumuina set 11 New Zealand discus records over her career, which began when she burst into prominence in 1990 by taking her first New Zealand title as a 16 year old. Two years later she was fifth in the World Junior Championships and in 1994 took the silver medal at her first Commonwealth Games, at Victoria, Canada.

A year after staking her claim to international recognition at Victoria, she became the first, and so far only, New Zealand woman to throw the discus beyond 60 metres, almost guaranteeing her selection for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. A year after Atlanta, she became world champion with her greatest throw, a massive 66.82 metres and ended the year as Halberg Award winner.

A gold medal followed at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealths of 1998, and she secured her place as one of New Zealand’s greatest athletes with a second successive Commonwealth Games gold medal four years later, at Manchester. In between she made her second Olympics at Sydney 2000 and in 2002 won the IAAF World Cup in Athens. She led the New Zealand team as flag bearer at the Athens Olympics, and proved she was still a force to be reckoned with, throwing 64.45 metres for seventh place.

After four successive appearances, she bowed out of Commonwealth Games competition after an injury-affected fourth place in Melbourne 2006. Two years later she attended her fourth and last Olympics at Beijing. Even so, this was not quite the last hurrah. After skipping the 2009 World Championships to concentrate on the exams for her Bachelor of Business Studies, she left discus throwing on a winning note the following year, with the gold medal at the Oceania Games and then stepped, apparently seamlessly, out of sport and into her role as the inaugural CEO of the Best Leadership Academy and Charitable Foundation. Having dominated her sport on her own terms for an astonishing 16 years, she has now already risen to the top in an entirely different field of endeavour, with every sign that her post sport achievements will be even more glittering.