Chris Rantall continues to defy the odds.
Less than six months on from a fatal tandem skydiving accident, which left Rantall with severe internal injuries and fractures, the 55-year-old will tick off another major milestone in his recovery. The Warrnambool father will participate in Thursday night's final round of the UTR Hopkins Mini Tri Series.
Rantall will attack a 200m swim, 7km bike ride and 2km run at the Blue Hole, and cheering him on, as they have on every occasion, will be his family.
"When I did my first scuba dive, they were there with me, when I did my first walk along the beach, my wife Berni was with me," Rantall said. "Same with the mini tri, Berni and I are both doing it and our kids and grandkids will be there supporting us.
"Family is a big part of the healing process."
On July 30, 2021, Rantall was left with a dislocated and fractured hip, internal bleeding, and broken ribs, when two parachutes failed to deploy during a tandem skydive.
Tragically, the accident claimed the life of instructor, Arron Toepfer, 35, who was hailed a hero following his efforts to protect Rantall on impact.
Since that day, the ex-serviceman's miraculous recovery continues to astound.
Physically, however, Rantall said he still lacked some feeling in his left leg, which made running difficult.
"It's not as strong as I'd like it to be, however, I can swim and ride a bike," he said. "The running bit I can't do that well at the moment, but we went for a run two Sundays ago.
"Most of that was walking, then when it got to a straight and flat ground I'd have a run and the next day I pulled up pretty good. I'm hoping to do a lot more running in the mini triathlon."
Rantall, who has long suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in East Timor, said his mental health continued to be a work-in-progress.
"With PTSD comes depression, and what I've found is when I have moments of depression after the accident, they only last very short times, though before the accident, it could have lasted a day or more," he said.
"Now I've had this accident, and with Arron dying, I'm very grateful to be alive, but not only that, that I can do things as well.
"I'm back doing my scuba diving, which is a really big bonus for my physical and mental health."
Rantall has documented his rehabilitation process in a Youtube channel, The Happy Diver.
It's a recovery that has not only been supported by Arron's loved ones, but many from within the south-west community.
"I've had some contact with Arron's friends and family," Rantall said. "They're very encouraged and happy to see that as a result of Arron's actions I'm alive, but not only am I alive, I'm able to do all these things.
"And the gratitude I have for the community. Friends and people who will stop and talk to me and say, as a result of the accident, and because of the healing and recovery, the positive attitude I've had, it's encouraging other people in their own trials.
"It's given them hope; if I can do this, it encourages them to do the same as well."
Rantall credited Warrnambool Triathlon Club for its support in accommodating his entry into the series. He said his aim was to cross the finish line.
"This is another stepping stone in my physical and mental recovery," he said. "The goal is to finish it, even though I'll be pretty slow especially with the run.
"I'll look at doing another triathlon down the track which may involve more kilometres, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Warrnambool Triathlon Club's third and final mini triathlon event will begin at 6pm at the Hopkins River mouth off Blue Hole Road.
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