For table tennis players Pam Fontaine and Tara Profitt, competing at the London 2012 Paralympics marks the climax of a remarkable journey.
"It's really kind of awesome," Fontaine told CNN. "It's kind of surreal, the chances of it happening -- I thought we probably would've done a better job with winning the lottery than for us both to be able to do it again, 20-something years later."
The U.S. pair first took part in 1984 at Stoke Mandeville, outside London, but then lost touch with each other.
They retired from the game to concentrate on other aspects of life -- in Fontaine's case, on her first love, wheelchair basketball.
But after each separately decided to take up table tennis again just a few years ago, they were reunited by chance in 2008.
In the course of catching up they conjured up a dream: to play together at the London Paralympics, 28 years after they first traveled to the United Kingdom as naive 19-year-olds to represent their country.
The idea had an added piquancy because it was Fontaine who had first introduced Profitt to table tennis -- also known as ping pong -- at the Ohio college where they met in 1983.
But could they pull it off?
It wasn't going to be easy to make the grade for selection nearly three decades later. Aspects of the game had changed, rules had evolved -- and their rivals for coveted spots on the Team USA Paralympic squad could be of any age.
Undaunted, they set about getting themselves back up to speed through dedicated training; Fontaine in the Dallas area and Profitt in her home state of Connecticut, aided by coach Roman Tinyszin.
They traveled the globe last year to gain world ranking points in International Table Tennis Federation tournaments, taking in everywhere from Venezuela to Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Slovenia and the Netherlands.
Fontaine's place in the Team USA squad was confirmed in January this year. Then came an anxious wait to see if Profitt had made it into the last spot in her disability class.
Finally the news they had both been praying for came through in March -- she was in.
Profitt, 47, was overjoyed by the news. "It means a lot to me," she said. "The older you get, the more you appreciate the things in life. "
As 19-year-olds, Profitt and Fontaine played singles at the 1984 Games rather than doubles, partly because they fall into different classification bands. The complex Paralympic system is intended to make sure athletes compete against others with the same level of impairment.
But this time around they will be competing both individually and in the team event.
Fontaine is aware of how much things have changed for Paralympic athletes over the years.
"Back in those days, you had to pay your own way. If you couldn't afford it, you couldn't go, so you had to fundraise," she recalled. "The uniforms were so ugly nobody wanted them."
Despite more than two decades out of touch, the friends still have many things in common.
Fontaine has two sons, one in the military and the other starting college, while Profitt has one; all three boys are very close in age.
Profitt is accompanied on the trip to London by her husband, Matt -- who was introduced to her by Fontaine when they were all students at Wright State University, in Dayton. They will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in London.
Both women were also successful able-bodied athletes before each suffered a devastating accident while a teenager.
Before meeting Fontaine in college, Profitt thought she would never practice sport again after a diving accident left her paralyzed from the chest down in 1979. She still appreciates what Fontaine did in introducing her to life as a disabled athlete.
Fontaine had played high school basketball before she was paralyzed in an automobile accident at age 16. The impact, in the days before seat belt laws came into force, sent her flying from the passenger seat through the windscreen. She broke her back, among other injuries, but a month after leaving the hospital she was at her first wheelchair basketball practice.
"I didn't have that period of 'Woe is me,'" Fontaine said. "I was right back in it."