Kiwi wakeboarder Brad Smeele has taken a "huge step" in his recovery, after being rendered quadriplegic in a devastating accident in the United States.
The former junior world champion, 27, was attempting a double backflip in Florida last month when he landed on his neck, shattering a vertebrae in his neck, leaving him with a 1-2 per cent chance of regaining movement in the top half of his body.
Yesterday, though, an announcement on the Brad Smeele's Recovery page on Facebook said he had made a breakthrough.
"We have huge news today," it read. "Brad ... is now officially off the ventilator and breathing on his own! Anyone that knows anything regarding spinal cord injuries knows that this is a huge step as he moves forward in his recovery process."
Mr Smeele was finally able to speak earlier this month after doctors inserted a valve into his throat.
A fundraiser in Auckland this month raised $27,000 for the wakeboarder, in addition to donations through Givealittle, taking total funds to more than $200,000. Mr Smeele had been moved to Shepherd Institute, a rehabilitation centre in Atlanta.