Former F1 driver going for Paralympic gold

Yahoo! New Zealand Sport Updated September 1, 2012, 12:07 pm

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."

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  1. Stephen John12:31pm Sunday 02nd September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    One of the greatest minds the world has ever known has been wheelchair bound for the better part of his adult life yet he can see beyond the stars further than any of us could even begin to imagine. Physical constraints have failed to deter or even contain the awesome power of the mans mind. So physical forms aside, in essence we're still very much the same. How then does any of us really differ.

  2. Greg10:27am Sunday 02nd September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Thats great

  3. 09:43am Sunday 02nd September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    I did not know Alex Zinardi was competing at these para,s - just stumbled on the story, looking at my other passion F1 .. well now I know, I gotta try and watch eem & see how he goes .. ambition & drive, they all have it .. go well all you para,s .. much respect!

  4. Stephen John08:52am Sunday 02nd September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    So the reality is, attitudes re the physically impaired haven't really changed at all. Its not discussed. Well not openly anyway let alone in any objective forum and thats a mistake. Its important we talk about these things so that humanity and science move forward together. Go the mighty PARA'S

  5. Nukes Rule12:41am Sunday 02nd September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Good on ya mate!

  6. Kilted Wanderer06:12pm Saturday 01st September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    No matter what he drove in the past doesn't matter to me, it takes guts and determination to get this far. Having dealt with a para through accident in my own family I know what these folk go through. Good luck to every one of them whether they get a medal or not it's a great acheivment..

  7. Sonia06:02pm Saturday 01st September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Hope you succeed and all the best.

  8. Charles05:34pm Saturday 01st September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    What a fantastic attitude! Best wishes to Alex in everything he sets his mind to

  9. Stephen John05:29pm Saturday 01st September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    I don't deny blade runner's moment in history. This isn't about the person its about technology. He simply didn't belong there due to the fact he was modified. What if he'd won. Imagine the uproar the protests. Could've tipped the whole olympics on its head and like it or not he's set a precedence of acceptance of modified athletes. Blade runners technology marks a beginning.

    3 Replies
  10. Derek05:12pm Saturday 01st September 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    No Susan. He was also a F1 driver but without distinction from 1991-94 and 99




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