In a life littered with challenges, Port Kembla surfer Robert Tome is taking his latest setback in his stride.
The father-of-four was thrilled to learn he'd won wildcard entry into the Australian adaptive surfing team to compete at the World Adaptive Surfing Championships in the US in November.
But almost as quickly as the good news arrived, it was snatched away, with officials this week contacting Mr Tome to apologise for their mistake: the team was in fact oversubscribed.
But cometh the hour, cometh Robert Tome.
He kicked up no stink, told organisers he understood, wished the Australian team genuinely well. Then he knuckled down with his training and rehabilitation.
"This has just set the log on fire even more for me," said Mr Tome, who will need to finish in the top two to gain automatic selection on next year's team. "To have a wild card's one thing, but to actually earn the spot on your own merit - that's where I want to be."
"This is a teachable moment for my girls. They can see that this is something I really wanted.
"I'm going to take control of the situation myself. I'm going to win my spot for next year."
Mr Tome lost his leg in a 2020 road accident, when his car ran off Picton Road as a result of what he believes was a medical episode.
"I remember driving along the road. I remember seeing the bend in front of me. I remember changing down gears - and that's the last thing I remember," he said.
"When I came to I was down a ditch. I knew that no one could see my ute, and the only way I was getting out of there was by dragging myself up."
He dragged himself out his ute window and to the roadside to flag down help.
Doctors later told him he stood about a 20 per cent chance of regaining full mobility in his leg, but it would take about 15-20 operations over a 3-5 year period, during which he couldn't surf at all.
"I said, 'not even a bath?'," Mr Tome said.
"They said, 'well, a sponge bath'."
"The water was always my happy place - especially growing up in Port Kembla. We've got some of the best beaches in the world."
With his family also front of mind - "my girls needed me back up and moving and being a father. Not being - I feel like - a burden" - Mr Tome opted to have the leg amputated.
He told doctors that losing the leg wasn't the worst thing that had happened to him. He and wife Hayley lost their daughter Maliah to a congenital heart disorder when the baby was just three weeks old.
Mr Tome describes life after the operation as "like being a newborn all over again" as he learned to walk, and eventually to surf, again.
His physiotherapist, Kristen Keith, has been blown away by his efforts in and outside of the gym.
He progressed from using two crutches, to one, to none. The focus was on building strength and range, progressing to explosive exercises until Mr Tome could do single leg burpees. Ms Keith introduced a stand-up paddle board to the regime to build balance skills on the water in the lead-up to Mr Tome's return to surfing.
"Things like this don't just happen without someone putting in the work," Ms Keith said. "You or I might get up and say, 'I don't feel 100 per cent today'. But Rob shows up on the good days and the bad days."
Mr Tome says he gets "choked up" thinking about the people who unquestioningly got behind his bid to get on the world surfing stage - including his boss and sponsors. One sponsor offered to provide him with a wetsuit leg to keep his prosthetic leg in place.
Mr Tome made headlines in January when he lost the limb in the surf at Port Kembla. A fellow surfer later found it and returned it.
"Right now I'm just a dad who's trying to show his kids it doesn't matter how hard life hits you, you've got to get up and keep going," Mr Tome said.
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