Ernesto Canto took par in the Olympic Torch Relay in 2004 ©Getty Images

Los Angeles 1984 race walk champion Ernesto Canto has died at the age of 61, following treatment for pancreatic and liver cancer.

Canto died on Friday (November 20), weeks after thanking people for their support during his cancer battle.

The 20-kilometre race walk gold medal Canto earned at Los Angeles 1984 is one of just three Olympic athletics titles won by a Mexican.

Raúl González, second in that race, won the 50km gold medal during the same Games, while Daniel Bautista won the 20km gold at Montreal 1976.

Born in Mexico City in October 1959, Canto took up race walking at a young age and won his first national under-18 title at only 13.

He went on to win various continental and regional titles as a junior athlete.

Canto's first major elite success came in 1981 at the World Race Walking Cup in Valencia, where he defeated Olympic bronze medallist Roland Wieser of East Germany for the 20km crown.

Two years later, Canto was the inaugural 20km world champion, getting the better of the Czech Republic's Jozef Pribilinec in the closing stages in Helsinki.

Ernesto Canto, right, led a Mexican one-two in the men's 20km race walk at Los Angeles 1984 ©Getty Images
Ernesto Canto, right, led a Mexican one-two in the men's 20km race walk at Los Angeles 1984 ©Getty Images

He then won the Pan American Games 20km gold less than three weeks later at Caracas 1983.

At the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, Canto was 10th in the 50km race.

The Mexican's last major medal came at the 1987 World Indoor Championships in Indianapolis, finishing third in the men's 5km race walk.

Canto's best 20km time was 1 hour 19min 37sec, set at altitude in Xalapa in Mexico in 1987.

At the Seoul 1988 Olympics, Canto was disqualified for foot faults, and at Barcelona 1992 he finished 29th in the 20km.

The Mexican Olympic Committee called Canto "one of the best athletes in the history of Mexican sports", while World Athletics and Centro Caribe Sports have also expressed sadness at his passing.