A pair of GTA salsa dancers is on top of the world after not only winning a major international competition for the second time, but doing so mere months after one of them suffered a broken neck during practice.
Roberto Quaresma and Daria Novoselova won the World Latin Dance Cup back in 2014 and were invited to perform at last summer's Pan Am Games in Toronto.
"We were so excited about it," Novoselova told CBC News.
"It's such a crazy opportunity to dance in front of the whole Rogers Centre and millions watching on TV. We were just so ecstatic about it."
While rehearsing for that performance, Quaresma fell awkwardly on top of Novoselova, who ended up with a broken neck.
"They said that I was very lucky because if it was another centimetre more, if I hit my neck a little bit harder, I could be in a wheelchair," Novoselova said. "I could be paralyzed from the chin down."
Novoselova had surgery and wore a neck brace until June. Meanwhile, Quaresma stopped dancing entirely.
"Dancing, it was the last thing on my mind because that's the emotional part," Quaresma. "Where it's like I put competing to the side."
The pair missed their Pan Am performance, but picked up where they left off as soon as Novoselova's neck brace came off. They had three months to prepare for the next World Cup, while other pairs had a full year.
"For Daria being able to dance and even for Rob to be able to see her dance after what happened and all that guilt feelings and stuff, it is what really pushed them harder than anybody else," their coach, Vanesa Stay, owner of Latin Energy, told CBC News.
In December, Novoselova and Quaresma travelled to Miami to defend their title.
"So many things going through my mind," Novoselova said. "First of all, I was very happy and grateful to be there to be dancing again doing what I love most."
When they were announced as winners and defending champions, they burst into tears.
"It was like, 'we did it, we did it,'" Quaresma said. "It's the craziest relief. We reached our goal. It's the best feeling."
Despite their success, the two haven't decided whether to go for a three-peat.