It came out of nowhere - and, according to Swimming Gunnedah head coach John Hickey, it could propel young Jacob Smith to lofty heights.
The "it" in question is talent with a capital "T".
And at the NSW Country Regionals at Taree on the weekend, the 10-year-old took another big step in his rapid, eye-catching development: two gold medals (50m backstroke and 100m breaststroke), six silver medals (50m butterfly, 50m freestyle, 100m backstroke, 100m butterfly, 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley) and one bronze medal (50m breaststroke).
Jacob, who is in year 5 at St Xavier's, will compete at the NSW Country Championships in Sydney next month and the Junior State Age Championships in Sydney in March.
He has qualified for seven events for the Country Championships. While he has swum state championship qualifying times for the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 50m and 100m butterfly, as well as the 50m backstroke.
Both events will be a first for him - and will come two years after he shocked his parents - and himself - by excelling at school swimming carnivals.
"That's when we sort of realised he had some talent in the pool," his father, Aaron, said. "So we decided to enroll him in the Gunnedah swim club with John Hickey."
He added: "It was a bit of a hidden talent. His mother [Debbie] was a swimmer back in the day over in England. She never really pursued it as much as what we are pursuing it with Jacob."
Aaron said his son was one of Hickey's "biggest future hopefuls". Hickey told him that Jacob had "raw talent" and excelled over both short and longer distances. "And you don't find that that much in young athletes," Aaron said.
Jacob's "worst" performance at the regionals was third place in the 50m breaststroke. Aaron said the carnival provided his son with his first serious competition in a year.
"We found a young fella from Coffs Harbour who gave Jacob a real good run for his money," he said. "Jacob was very close to him in every race ... Prior to the regionals, we couldn't find anyone in this region who could beat Jacob."
Aaron saluted Swimming Gunnedah for the support it had provided Jacob, whom he described as a shy and modest boy. "He doesn't get a big head very often."
Jacob, it seems, is a joy to coach. "As he reaches the standard, he rises to the occasion," Hickey said, adding: "He trains hard every time."
"Pretty good" was how the youngster described his performance at the regionals, adding: "I've been surprised [about] how fast I've been swimming."
His sister Tahlia, 12, will swim the 50m freestyle at the Country Championships.
Six other Swimming Gunnedah members medalled at the regionals: Andre Steele (bronze, 16 years 50m butterfly); Josh Spinks (bronze, eight years 100m breaststroke); Audrey Hannaford (silver, 11 years 50m butterfly); Felicity Gough (gold, 10 years 50m breaststroke); Baxter Knapman (gold, 10 years 50 breaststroke; silver 100m breaststroke); Alexis Whitton (silver, nine years 50m breaststroke; bronze, 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke).