Good mates Ben Riebeseel (15) and Joel Keeble (16) will cross the Rottnest Channel Swim as a duo later this month, but the path to friendship has been an unusual one for the Mandurah teens.
The pair of Peel Aquatic Club swimmers were largely unknown to each other until a training session two years ago, where one of Ben’s routine dives went horribly wrong.
Plunging into the pool at the Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre, Ben’s dive streamlined resulting in his head thudding into the floor.
The impact left Ben floating unconscious, face-down in the water with two broken vertebrae.
Joel, who was swimming in the lanes beside Ben, was the first to react and had fortunately completed his bronze medallion training just six weeks prior.
Performing a vice grip and rolling Ben to his side, Joel was able to attract the attention of those around the pool and Ben was eventually rushed to Peel Health Campus.
His journey back to swimming through rehab proved a lengthy one, but now two years on and fully fit and firing, Ben and Joel have developed a strong friendship and are preparing to make the 19.7km open water dash across the Rottnest Channel together.
“We didn’t really know each other before the accident but we’ve become mates through it,” Joel said.
“That’s what I think is going to help us with this swim – we really know each other’s capabilities and we know each other’s strengths.”
The pair plan to swim in six-minute intervals, and will be spurred on by skipper Des McLean and crew member Mark Sach of the Mandurah Offshore Fishing and Sailing Club.
Meanwhile Mandurah Dragon Boat Club members Jack Menna and Nicola Wood will provide paddle support.
The event will be Ben’s second Rottnest swim after competing last year, but for Joel it will be his debut crossing.
“I made the swim as a team of four last year so I’m still pretty nervous about doing it as a pair,” Ben said.
“A lot of it is going to be mental – how far can you push yourself to keep going?
“It’s definitely exciting though, once you’re finished with the whole thing it’s a big sense of achievement.”
The duo will also be making the swim from Cottesloe Beach to Rottnest Island on Saturday, February 23 in an effort to raise funds for muscular dystrophy research.
To donate to their cause visit rottnestchannelswim19.everydayhero.com/au/ben-joel