Huerta’s mother beat cancer. Free of that worry and spurred by her fight, he fought on himself. He hooked up with a coach, Roberto Solano, who encouraged him to train in Costa Rica. On the side of a volcano. Workouts would happen at 5,000 feet above sea level. Sleeping occurred 2,000 feet above that.
And yet, earlier this year, there was still no way to know whether the journey would be worth it. In May, at an international event in San Diego, Huerta knew only the top American finisher was guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Until the last mile of the run, that’s exactly what Huerta was. And then Kemper passed him.
“He’s been to four Olympic Games,” Huerta said. “So if there’s someone out there that knows how to get here, it’s him.”
Huerta’s only other chance: Finish in the top nine overall. Huerta, running behind, lost track of where he stood. When he crossed the finish line, he clasped his head. He bent at the waist. And when he looked up, he started counting the athletes around him. One, two, three — wait, there were only eight. He was ninth. He was an Olympian.
“That moment,” Schmitz said. “Just raw emotion.”
Huerta grabbed an American flag and began racing up and down along the crowd, which gleefully chanted, “U-S-A! U-S-A!”
Havana, Miami, family. Colorado, Costa Rica, cancer. They’re all part of his story, one that makes him one of the most fascinating American athletes at these Games.
“I am 100 percent American,” Huerta said Friday. “I just, I remember where I came from, and I think I’m very lucky to be able to [be] born over there but then to come over here and succeed, I think it can open the doors to many kids that come to this country with a dream.”