ACTIVE AGEING: Mei-Ling's gold from beach to book
MEI-LING Venning has made a little piece of history at 70, taking out three gold and two silver medals representing Toowoon Bay in the Australian Masters Surf Lifesaving Championships.
Until this year there was no female division for over-70s.
Instead, women had to compete against the men.
So just having a category in which to race was exciting for Mei-Ling. To win at that level, she said, was amazing.
She picked up gold in the beach sprint, flags and surfboard, and silver in the rescue tube and 1km run.
It's not a bad effort for someone who's been told she shouldn't run due to arthritis.
"My knees are not good, so it's a fine line, but I don't want to sit around and do nothing," she said.
Instead, she swims every day, followed by deep water running, as well as enjoying exercise classes at Mingara Rec Club.
She keeps the sand-running for competition.
The former special needs teacher, who spent most of her adult life in Kingston, England and enjoyed ice skating, admitted coming to Australia in 2005 and becoming involved in surf lifesaving was "a big change".
"It's a wonderful feeling gliding on the ice, doing things you can't do on dry land, and maybe it's similar in the water, you are just free to move differently," she said.
But never one to sit around - except when she is writing a play or novel - it didn't take long before Mei-Ling was hooked on both the fitness aspect and the camaraderie at Toowoon Bay SLSC.
It's that element of support and encouragement which she also appreciates as president of Wyong Writers.
She has had two plays performed at Woy Woy Peninsula Theatre and last year published her first novel, Pelican Bay, on Amazon.
"It's very exciting to have a corporeal thing you can hold in your hand and open and read," Mei-Ling said of receiving her first book in print, which she rates as even more overwhelming than winning those gold medals.
"I like running around and being fit anyway, the medals are just the cherry on the cake, but getting to the end of writing a book is a much bigger investment, a bigger chunk of my life."
She has more novels in the wings, and said the difficulty was not finding inspiration, but choosing which stories to continue with.
"You need to care enough about the characters to spend two years of your life with them," she said, explaining this included writing, editing, re-writing, setting aside and re-editing.
She's also trying to get a group of writers together to take part in a Write a Book in a Day competition - a 12-hour commitment in which a group of 10 writers is given three characters, a setting, an issue and five words to include in a children's book.
If you are interested, go to www.wyongwriters.org.