Conal Wilson had run just 50 metres of a cross-country race when he was trampled on the ground, his kidney torn by another runner's foot.
The injury was excruciating - serious enough to cause the Auckland Grammar School student to black out, and later confine him to a bed for weeks.
That was in March last year.
This month, he capped off a phenomenal fightback by gaining silver in a transtasman championship, crossing the finish line just two seconds behind the winner.
This week, the 17-year-old put his recovery down to goal-setting and refusing to give up.
Conal had been a favourite to win his school cross-country champs at Auckland Domain last year, but soon after starting, found himself among a pack of other runners.
"There was a lot of pushing and shoving, a bit of tripping, and I got caught up in that group, fell, and just got trampled," he said.
As the runners passed over him, one stepped on his stomach, causing a 2.5cm tear in his kidney.
"It was kind of like I just got a jump and it was a pain down by my stomach," Conal said. "I was lying there for about 30 minutes while they called the ambulance."
He could recall little of the ordeal, as he was given morphine to treat the pain.
After eight days in hospital, Conal was put on bedrest for two weeks, with little physical activity, so the wound could heal itself.
But he could not accept his running days were over.
"I was really trying to work out what I would do while I was recovering ... I knew I was still going to race and I was just focusing on how I was going to get better."
With steely determination, he soon began running again, putting his mind past the pain in his side until it slowly faded away.
He went on to win a road-race championship in Auckland last year, and this year claimed first place at Grammar's cross-country tournament.
Yet he never imagined he could come within inches of victory at the Australian under-18 cross-country championships on Saturday, completing the 6km course in just 18 minutes and 59 seconds - the first Kiwi home.
His New Zealand team also secured gold at the contest.
Conal credited the lessons he had learned from his coach, Bruce Jones, namely, "having determination, focusing on setting goals, and then achieving those goals".
But Mr Jones told the Weekend Herald the credit belonged entirely with Conal.
"Basically, he's got the right temperament and that's the critical factor. He's just a very positive, no-nonsense sort of a boy ... He just gets on with it."