Statistics speak volumes of the New Zealand athlete Barbara Kendall. She has been the New Zealand Sports Woman of the year four times… she has won four windsurfing world championships and next year she will compete in her fifth Olympic Games… she has gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals. Hers has been a lifetime as an athlete that has been focussed at the pinnacle of the sport of windsurfing… and where she has utterly dominated in a career that began nearly 25 years ago.
But although the young Barbara Kendall, who now has two children of her own, went sailing with her parents even before she was born, her life began as a successful dancer. By the age of 18 she was dancing school manager at a dance school of nearly 500 pupils; her single-minded focus at anything she turned her mind to was the key to her meteoric rise.
And Barbara Kendall was also a sailor, beginning in small dinghies and the obligatory New Zealand P-Class where Blake and Coutts and Sanderson began their careers.
But it was the switch to windsurfing where Kendall really found her calling. After finishing second from last in her first women's world championship in 1984, she faced a cross-roads in her sailing career: in 1985 she qualified for the world championships in both the Europe dinghy and the windsurfing classes. She chose to represent her country at windsurfing where she finished 4th in the Youth Worlds and 3rd in the Women's Worlds.
By 1988 Barbara Kendall had given up dancing to focus on windsurfing. And it was this new path that was to see her rise to peak performance on the world professional board sailing tour in the days before women's windsurfing was an Olympic discipline.
So when, in 1992, women's board sailing was introduced at the Barcelona Olympics, Kendall switched from the professional tour boards to the new Olympic board and became the first woman for 40 years to win an Olympic Gold Medal for New Zealand. Success followed with a Silver in Atlanta 1996 and Bronze in Sydney 2000.
And so, for 25 years, Barbara Kendall has been a supreme athlete winning extensively in one of the most physical disciplines in sailing. With coach and husband Shayne Bright himself a top windsurfer and kite boarder, Kendall, who is an International Olympic Committee member, an athlete and a mother of two, is as capable of winning gold in Beijing as she was in Barcelona 25 years ago. And that is an outstanding achievement.