By MONIQUE DEVEREUX
A tearful television apology may have helped turn the tide for boxer Soulan Pownceby after the controversy over his selection to represent New Zealand.
Public opinion had been divided over his participation at the Olympics after it was revealed he was jailed for the manslaughter of his baby daughter Jeanette Rikihana, and had subsequent assault convictions.
Pownceby initially refused to talk publicly but appeared on TV One's late news programme on Tuesday, saying he accepted "total responsibility".
"It's been a very hard thing for me to deal with because I lost my daughter," Pownceby said, breaking down several times.
"I can only go forward. I can't change the past. I wish I could but I can't."
He said he had already apologised to those he could. "To those I didn't get a chance to apologise to for whatever reason, I just want you to know that I am so sorry. I'm just trying to be the best person I can be."
The apology met the approval of Prime Minister Helen Clark.
She had waded into the debate on Tuesday, saying Pownceby could only hope to put the past behind him when he could "stare a camera down the lens and say I did things which were terribly wrong, I regret that".
Yesterday she said of Tuesday night's apology: "If he's shown remorse then that's a good thing."
Social justice advocate Celia Lashlie was also pleased with Pownceby's actions.
"I needed to know that he had owned the crime and the interview did that for me. It's fantastic."
The family of Losalia Mulipola, the mother of Jeanette Rikihana, declined to comment when approached by the Herald.
After the television apology, reaction from Herald readers was supportive of Pownceby.
Diane Goer wrote: "New Zealand should stop being a nation of knockers encouraged by the media and give the man the chance. He has made the change and he has paid the price. Others do not have the right to condemn him forever."
Melanie Gearon said her opinion had changed. "I realised that none of us have the right to deny someone the chance to better themselves."
But others were still unhappy about Pownceby's selection. Emma Henderson said she was "torn between emotions".
"Soul, I wish you all the best for the future and hope you continue to reform ... but I would not be a proud Kiwi should you go to the Olympics to represent New Zealand."
Boxing New Zealand is standing by its selection of Pownceby and he will represent New Zealand in Athens in August.
By MONIQUE DEVEREUX