Six years ago Sydney electrician Paul Bailey was unloading an 850 kilogram switchboard from a truck when it toppled on top of him, crushing his spine.
Fast forward to Perth on the weekend, and the now 42-year-old Bailey was slashing 16 seconds off his personal best time to thrill selectors who have the task of putting together Australia's first ever Paralympics canoe team.
Behind the headline-grabbing return to action of the gold medal winning K4 team, and the stunning form of Ken and Bernadette Wallace, there were more than a dozen athletes who had even better stories at last week's national canoe and kayak championships.
For many of them it was their first major competition. Many of them had only been in kayaks or canoes for less than a year.
But every single one of them had overcome incredible odds to get there, and they all want to be in Rio in 2016.
Nearly all of them were competing because they were hand-picked by one woman. Andrea Wood, Australia's top paracanoe coach.
Paracanoeing has just been accepted as a sport for the 2016 Rio Paralympics, and Australia is scrambling to get a world class team together.
A record 18 people took part in this year's nationals. There were people left paralysed after car accidents, there were cancer survivors, there were people born with just one leg.
Wood was stoked, not just with the number of entries, but also the standard.
"There's been a whole heap of world standard times," she said.
"A lot of the arms only guys are amazing. They're all brand new but punching out world standard times, that would win a bronze medal at world championships. It's remarkable."
Paul Bailey is a classic story. Four weeks ago, at one of his first competitive hit outs, he was, as Wood describes it, "out the back door".
On the weekend he smashed his previous personal best time.
"A 16-second pb was incredible, but he was almost disappointed with it," she said.
"I think any other athlete who did a 16-second PB would be over the moon, but they're all so hard on themselves, so competitive."
Alongside the newcomers in Perth were more seasoned campaigners, like Kara Kennedy and Brock Ingram, who have already been to a couple of world championships.
Now all of a sudden they're finding a much more crowded field. And they're responding.
"Kara is amazing," Wood said.
"She's been to two world championsips. She's got a degenerative condition but just keeps punching out PB's. She did a six second PB on the weekend."
Wood hasn't finished her aggressive recruiting campaign yet. She knows there are plenty more potential paralympians out there, and she's determined to find them before Rio.
"If I can find another handful of people that can do the same, in different classes and areas that we haven't got people into yet, and in particular women, I'll be happy," she said.
"If we can get women into some of these classes, and get them to race for their positions. It's unreal that we can get them to the standard we're getting them to in such a short amount of time."
Wood hopes to take at least five paddlers to the world championships in Germany this year. Paul Bailey might not be one of them, but it would be a brave person to bet against him being in Rio in three years time.
"I love it," he said.
"It's just so good to be doing a sport. It's changed my lifestyle quite a bit.
"Rio's my goal, but I'll probably keep going on after that. I don't think age is a barrier, and I'm only going to keep getting fitter and fitter.
"I've only been doing it for five or six months, so I can only improve."