Ephraim Gudgeon may have lost the ability to walk as the result of a swimming accident two years ago, but the inspirational 26-year-old never lost his determination to be the best.
Gudgeon, a former Waikato swimming champion and international hip hop dancer, fractured his T12 vertebrae and was left paralysed from the waist down after jumping 18 metres off the Bay of Plenty's Omanawa Falls on Waitangi Day in 2017.
Moved to Auckland's spinal unit to undergo tedious rehab after spending three months in hospital, Gudgeon was forced to accept his new life in a wheelchair.
But with a rich background as a sportsperson, Gudgeon couldn't silence the competitor inside him as he searched for a new goal.
He pondered swimming with the idea of competing at the Paralympics, even wheelchair rugby, but bodybuilding was what sparked the most interest.
"I still wanted to compete in at an elite level … I have always followed bodybuilding and even thought about competing before my accident," Gudgeon wrote on his Givealittle page.
"I came across Wheelchair Bodybuilding whilst in the Spinal Unit and wondered if they had it in NZ. I done [sic] some research and found that they do."
Two years on and Gudgeon has his sights set on becoming New Zealand's first Professional Wheelchair Bodybuilder after being crowned the New Zealand Wheelchair Bodybuilding Federation National Champion in 2017 – just nine months after the accident.
Gudgeon will take off for Toronto at the end of the month to compete on the World Wheelchair Bodybuilding stage against athletes from around the globe with the winner earning professional status.
"I'm currently training twice a day, dieting and working hard with the goal in mind of representing my country, winning this competition and becoming the first Wheelchair Bodybuilder from NZ with Pro status," he wrote.
Gudgeon set up a Givealittle page called "Becoming NZ's first Pro Wheelchair Bodybuilder" to raise funds for the trip he and his wife plan to make later this month.
All the funds raised will cover flights, accommodation and other needs required to help Gudgeon compete.