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Wig and robe to polka-dot bikini
Thursday 31 March 2011
Wig and robe to polka-dot bikini
Age doesn't matter when you do something you love, says surfer mum Marguerite Vujcich. At 51, the former South African is the oldest competitor on the national women's surfing circuit – by about 30 years.
She shows up to competitions with her signature blonde hair trailing behind her, and often in a bright pink bikini. Even at twice the age of her rivals, she is the seventh-ranked woman nationally.
The achievement is all the more impressive given the battle the former lawyer has fought to get there.
Brought up in Durban, she taught herself how to surf at 16. "I was the only girl surfing. The boys gave me a hard time, but then they realised I was serious."
She came to New Zealand about 20 years ago, setting up as a barrister in Auckland. Vujcich says she was so committed to her work that she didn't even take maternity leave after giving birth to any of her three children.
"I remember being in court and having contractions and I would drive to the hospital and continue to take calls while working through the contractions. I had one of my babies on a Friday morning and by Monday, I was back at work.
"I apologised to a client that I couldn't see them on Friday, but I was having a baby."
But six years ago, it all caught up with her. "I loved my work. I'd work till two or three most mornings and think nothing of it. But I had a trial in Auckland and, on my way home, I collapsed. I got home and put all my ski gear on and went to bed, I was that cold."
She discovered she was very ill.
"I was signing off, shutting down. I couldn't even lift a hand." She was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. "I pictured myself as 80 or 90, with long grey hair and a walking stick, going to court."
After the diagnosis, the family moved to Napier. "The specialist said to go somewhere quiet." She told her husband, Alan, if she couldn't practise law, she was going surfing.
A year ago she began competing, after initial reservations about being too old. "When you are out in the waves, you sort of forget about age and just concentrate on the waves and wanting to win. I thought everyone would laugh at me, but you have just got to give everything a go in life. If you want to do something, you do it."
Now she has people tell her she's inspirational. "It doesn't matter what your age is. Challenging yourself is how you stay young."
Vujcich said no one could tell her if and when she would fully recover, and she has days where she looks with sadness at the wig and robe hanging in her wardrobe. But she has got a coach to take her through winter and wants to make the top four this summer.
"My coach says he'll get me to number one."
- Sunday Star Times
The above originally appeared here.
Another article about Marguerite, also written by Sarah Harvey, appeared in New Zealand's Sunday News:
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