Mexican Mario Santana Ramos has a point to prove during the Dubai 2019 World Para Championships. Image Credit: Alaric Gomes/Gulf News

Dubai: Mexico’s Mario Santana Ramos always dreamt of a life in sport. But he was paralysed from the waist down following an accident while playing American football for his college team way back in 2002.

Today, 17 years later, and after overcoming a number of odds, the 38-year-old from Villaldama Nuevo Leon, Ramos still wants to excel in his chosen sport of Club Throw in the F51 category.

Ramos is on his second visit to Dubai — the first one was at the 2016 Fazza International Championships — and he wants to make the long trip count as he eyes a first-ever medal for his country. “No medal can be too far for me. I have trained hard to be here and I can see the day when I will be able to have a piece of metal hanging around my neck,” the wheelchair bound athlete told Gulf News on the sidelines of the ongoing Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.

“After going through the worst, I believe that I can make my dreams come true with some more perseverance and even more hard work,” he added.

American football is big in Mexico with the national team doing well while reaching the final of the 1999 and 2003 IFAF World Cup — on both occasions losing to world champions Japan. The selected players are usually from teams in ONEFA, Mexico’s main college football league.

As a 21-year-old, Ramos was aspiring for a sure pathway to glory through this American football route when he broke his neck in an on-field tackle. “The doctors were good, but I had broken my L5-L6 and that was the best situation I could have been in. It was not the best time of my life, but I just managed to hang in there and see how fast I could cope with the injury,” Ramos said.

“Despite the mental agony, all I knew was that I wanted a life that was as close to normal as possible. I kept my mind open and I aspired towards higher goals where I could prove to be worthy by taking up any sort of competitive sport.”

Over the years, Ramos has been a regular with the Mexican squad at various venues around the world. His most recent competition was at the 2019 Parapan American Games held in Lima, Peru earlier this summer. At the 2017 London World Para Athletics Championships, Ramos’ effort of 26.52m in the Club Throw was inscribed as the Area Record for the Americas. Ranked eighth at the beginning of the year, he has now risen to being world No. 2.

“Seventeen years down the line has taught me a lot. I am wiser and I know I want to be the best in my category,” Ramos said.

“I have a long way to go, and I am convinced that my disability will never stop me from achieving what I want in life.”