Barbara Kendall retires

New Zealand windsurfing legend hangs up her sea boots

Sunday May 9th 2010, Author: Jodie Bakewell-White, Location: New Zealand

Barbara Kendall is retiring from Olympic competition after a wind surfing career spanning close to a quarter century and encompassing multiple Olympic and World Championship medals.

Now 42 years of age, Barbara is one of New Zealand’s most accomplished athletes and a recognised role model.

Barbara Kendall’s sailing career highlights include...

Olympic Sailing
1992 Barcelona – Gold Medal (Lechner Women)
1996 Atlanta – Silver Medal (Mistral Women)
2000 Sydney – Bronze Medal (Mistral Women)
2004 Athens – Fifth (Mistral Women)
2008 Beijing – Sixth (RS:X Women)

World Championship Medals
1997 Mistral World Championship, Australia – Bronze Medal
1998 Mistral World Championship, France – Gold Medal
1999 Mistral World Championship, Noumea – Gold Medal
2002 Mistral World Championship, Thailand – Gold Medal
2003 Mistral World Championship, Spain – Silver Medal
2004 Mistral World Championship, Turkey – Silver Medal
2007 RS:X World Championship, Portugal – Silver Medal
2008 RS:X World Championship, New Zealand – Silver Medal

Other Major Achievements
1992 New Zealand Sailor of the Year
1992 Awarded MBE
1996 New Zealand Sports Woman of the Year
1998 New Zealand Sailor of the Year
1998 New Zealand Sports Woman of the Year
1999 New Zealand Sports Woman of the Year
2002 New Zealand Sports Woman of the Year
2007 Inducted into ISAF Sailing Hall of Fame

For Kendall there have been not just one, but many key moments. “There have been so many highlights,” she reflects. “That’s why I did it for so long.”

“Winning Olympic Gold was a big highlight, but then that seemed to pale when I went and won the World Championships after just having a baby. Those high points just kept coming.”

“I definitely have the intrepid travel bug in me, and the lifestyle that goes with competing is great. You get to travel the world, compete with the best, which is how you become the best. I have been able to travel the world with a purpose, and doing something that I’m passionate about.”

Her long-time coach and friend Grant Beck describes the x-factor in Kendall’s character that delivered her the medals.

“Barbara is without question our most successful Olympian. Why? Well, she is a Kendall. And like her brother she suffers from all the following faults! Enormous energy; huge drive; massive determination; self belief that if they try hard enough they will achieve; shockingly stubborn and frighteningly competitive,” says Beck.

While she won’t be on the regatta circuit anymore, Kendall is well entrenched in the hearts and minds of all New Zealanders as a bubbly, effervescent and very successful sportswoman.

Yachting New Zealand’s Chief Executive, Des Brennan touches on her legacy; “Barbara has been an inspiration to all New Zealanders and her achievements in Olympic sailing exemplify her greatness.”

“She is a wonderful role model for young people and particularly young women. We will miss her keenly competitive spirit, but her inspiration will endure,” says Brennan.

Kendall says that there are two main aspects she will miss.

“Throughout my 24 years of competing there has always been one single focus – to compete and win. When you have one single ambition it’s easy to make decisions – it’s all about the one goal and I will miss that.”

“The second thing is the competitors. They become your best mates. When you’re competing you see them regularly, so I will miss that too. Thank goodness for FaceBook,” she says.

“After 24 years I’d lost the passion for competing. I used to be consumed by it, and when I got back out there I was waiting for that feeling to come back, and it just didn’t. I felt tired, and had nothing left.”

“I miss it, I miss parts of that lifestyle. But sometimes you have to close one door before you know what comes next for you. I feel lucky that I could come to the decision for myself, I wasn’t forced into retirement by injury or pushed out by the younger girls or overtaken.”

Along with the emotional aspect, Kendall says that family has definitely been a factor. “Balancing two young children, and trying to be on form when you are coping with sleep deprivation wasn’t easy”.

But Kendall recognises that, for her daughters, having a Mum on the Olympic wind surfing circuit has brought benefits too. “The girls are very worldly,” she says. “They’ve travelled the world, and seen a lot, and they’re happy well adjusted kids.”

“Now if the girls want to get into sailing, they’ll have the best coach in the world,” laughs Kendall. “That’s if they want me as their coach!”

Kendall’s retirement from competition sees her putting more time into her predominantly voluntary roles with the International Olympic Committee. [IOC]

She sits on the IOC’s Athletes Commission which serves as a consultative body and is the link between active athletes and the IOC. She is also on the IOC’s Women and Sport Commission.

Kendall also holds two positions with the Oceania Olympic Committee as an Executive Board member, and the President of their Athletes Commission.

Currently Kendall is involved in delivering two programmes within the Oceania region on behalf of the IOC, one of which is being offered to elite level athletes for the first time ever. The IOC athletes career programme in cooperation with Adecco, aims to empower high achieving athletes to make the transition into new life paths as they wind down their sporting career, is being run as a pilot in the Oceania region.

“It’s about personal growth,” she explains. “We look at identifying an individual’s personal skills, strengths and competencies, and how they can be transferred into the world outside of sport. It’s about working out personality type, likes and dislikes, competencies and what skills as an athlete you can offer to the corporate world.”

“I’ve learnt a lot myself in the process,” says Kendall. “There’s been nothing like this in place, so the transition for me hasn’t been easy. I can really see the benefit of the programme from a personal experience level.”

Last week Kendall was working with New Zealand’s elite rowers and the role will take her throughout Oceania. Sydney and Papua New Guinea are next on the agenda.

Her positions with the IOC will see her travel to Singapore for the Youth Olympic Games, being staged for the first time ever in August this year. And she while she won’t be on the start line, Kendall will be in Great Britain during the 2012 Olympic Games.

Now the decision to move on from competition has been made, Kendall finds she has little desire to compete on the water. If she’s out there, for now, it’s just for fun.

Kendall’s long-time coach Grant Beck has supplied the new ride, in the form of a second-hand Optimist. “Last week Samantha, Aimee and I, plus the dog, all climbed in the Optimist together.”

The Kendall Bright family boat is out of the water for a tidy up with plans for cruising on the Hauraki Gulf next summer.

Barbara was born in Papakura in August 1967 and the youngest of three children. Barbara married Shayne Bright in 1993 and their daughters Samantha and Aimee were born in 2001 and 2005 respectively.

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