Former F1 driver going for Paralympic gold
Former F1 driver going for Paralympic gold

When Paralympic hand cyclist Alex Zanardi takes to the track at Britain's Brands Hatch course next week he will have a distinct advantage over his competitors.

That's because the 45-year-old Italian is a formre Formula One driver - and he raced professionally until a horror crash in 2001 ended his career when he lost both his legs.

The tragic accident happened when Zanardi pulled out of a pit stop during the 2001 EuroSpeedway Lausitz Cart race.

He was leading with 12 laps left, when he lost control of his car and stalled.

Canadian driver Alex Tagliani crashed into him at 217mph leaving the car and Zanardi in pieces.

The accident left the driver with less than one litre of blood in his body and the doctors said it was a miracle he survived.

But rather than fading into the background Zanardi has show true fight, courage and determination to carry on competing in the sport he loves, saying the first thing he asked himself after the accident was "How am I going to do all the things I want to do with no legs?"

Zanardi became a World Touring Car Championship driver, in a specially modified car and started racking up wins.

And in 2007 he discovered hand biking – a sport where the pedals are turned by the riders hands rather than their feet.

After just four weeks of training in the sport, Zanardi came fourth in the hand bike section of the New York marathon.

The Italian retired from racing in 2009 and started his bid to gain a spot in the Italian team for the 2012 Paralympics, and now he is determined to go for gold.

"My parents taught me that I could always improve on things," Zanardi told reporters.

"After my crash I never doubted it would be hard but I would be lying to say this new life has been a surprise to me.

"I did it because I thought it was possible."