Mexico City traffic cop Pablo Ramírez Lemus found his 15 minutes of fame in a story and video that went viral last week after he beat a fitness instructor who challenged him to a pushups contest.
But the 28-year-old officer has much bigger dreams that could put him on a worldwide stage if he achieves his goal of competing in the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Ramírez was in a motorcycle accident in 2012 which pinned him between two cars. The young man was in a coma for days and underwent some 28 surgeries over the span of four months before doctors finally told him they would need to amputate his leg in order to save his life.
The amputation sent him into a depression, but he pulled through with the support of his family. “There was a time when I did feel sad when I looked at myself and said ‘Oh, I’m missing a leg,’ but I learned something. My family told me to accept myself, to believe in myself and everything will be normal, and yes, it was.”
Ramírez was fitted with an artificial leg to help him walk, but the rehabilitation process was slow and arduous.
“I had to start from scratch. It is not like I just put on the prosthesis and walk as before, it is very different. Your balance is totally different. I wanted to take a step and I fell,” he says. “It is as if you were learning to walk again.”
A love of sports that began in childhood continued, and as he recovered he started working out again and acts as a fitness coach to other officers on his squad.
Four years after his accident he met Mexico’s national rowing coach and found his new passion. Ramírez was drawn to the thrill of competition the sport offers, and the feeling of moving under your own power. He began training intensely to develop his endurance and strength with an eye to competing internationally and the Paralympic Games in his crosshairs.
“Now I dream of Tokyo,” he says.