Just over ten years have passed since former F1 driver Alessandro ‘Alex’ Zanardi came close to death in his horrific accident at the CART race at the Lausitzring, but the upbeat Italian is close to realising his next dream: winning gold at London’s 2012 Paralympic Games.
A two-time CART champion, the former Jordan, Minardi and Lotus F1 driver lost both legs after a horror crash in Germany when his car was T-boned as he exited the pit lane.
His injuries were so severe that no one thought he would survive, but he did. His recovery was long and painful, racked with bouts of severe depression, but he incredibly made a return to the racing cockpit just a few years later, driving a specially modified BMW in the European and World Touring Car Championships.
After retiring from the tin-top scene at the end of the 2009 season, Zanardi switched focus to the field of handcycling. It’s a discipline he’s immediately adapted to, and today he’s considered the world number one after winning this year’s New York Marathon (below), in which he made his debut just four years earlier.
The next stop is the London Paralympic Games, where the handcycling road race and time trial events will take place (fittingly) at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
But despite his recent success, 45-year-old Zanardi is not counting his chickens until the big day.
“I’m not the youngest [on the hand cycling circuit], that’s for sure,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “There’s one Dutch kid who is 20, he will be 21 when we get to London. He is very, very strong, a very nice kid. But what can you do?
“I’m an old fart. But I’m not discouraged by it.
“Besides, the exciting thing is to try to win the gold; to go out every day and train with that goal in mind.
“Ultimately, if I get to London and discover that other athletes are just more talented than me, and I finish fifth or sixth, then it wouldn’t mean that morning that I have been wasting my time. Because believing it to be possible, and doing it, that is the fun part.”
We’ll certainly be watching Zanardi’s progress at next year’s events, as (no doubt) will every motorsport fan in awe of his incredible achievements!
[Original image via Jalopnik]