At around this time last year, Mexican runner Cesar Ramirez was gearing up for an Olympic run in the summer. A year later, he's still celebrating the most important win of his life, despite missing out on the Rio Games.
The 23-year-old had been singled out as one of the country's biggest hopes to reach the podium following strong qualification times. Mexico had not obtained a medal from Athletics since current senator Ana Gabriela Guevara took silver in the Women's 400 meters in Athens 2004. Ramirez was poised, many believed, to end the drought. Just one month before Rio 2016, however, the Olympic hopeful bowed out to get treatment for testicular cancer. He eschewed Olympic dreams for much higher stakes.
Following chemotherapy, Ramirez was declared cancer-free in September, and immediately set his sights on Tokyo, despite the competition being four years. "I was very sad (missing Rio), I had worked on it for many years," Ramirez told La Aficion in an interview. "I'm 100 percent now and preparing for Tokyo," he continued.
Ramirez's next challenge on the track is qualifying for the IAAF World Championships this year in London. The Sinaloa native alternates demanding physical sessions with constant medical checkups in an effort to remain cancer-free. "I went through 15 chemotherapy sessions. I could have had five more, but my body responded well," he told Debate in October, days after he returned to the track for training.
Despite not being able to compete in the last Olympic cycle, Ramirez is confident that he's stronger than ever. "Many people believe I will come back weaker from this, but I'm going to show them that I'm all the way back."