From Formula One To Paralympic Champion

The story of the year.

Robert Whiteby Robert White

The story of Italian Alex Zanardi emerged this week and his journey is a fascinating one, not only in the world of sports, but also as a story of individual perseverance and determination.

Zanardi lost both legs in a race crash back in 2001, but turned what could have been a devastating loss into one of the stories of the year. His amazing story came to a momentary pause this week when years of hard work culminated into a Paralympic gold.

Zanardi, also known as ‘The Donut King’, spent his early career in and out of the F1 and C.A.R.T circuits before he went away and re-established his reputation, becoming known as a talented driver.

On September 15th, 2001, Zanardi was involved in a sickening crash in his first race in Europe. The first responders arrived to find the Italian’s legs amputated from the impact and he was losing an incredible amount of blood. Zanardi arrived on a German operating table just 59 minutes after losing control of his vehicle and had lost 75 percent of his total blood while his heart stopped beating numerous times during the hour.

Two years later, with prosthetic limbs in place, Zanardi returned to the track at Lausitzring in a specialised car to finished the 13 laps he failed to complete on that September day. Amazingly, one of his laps was one of the fastest of the year.

After a full-time return to tour racing, Zanardi turned his attention towards para-cycling seven years ago. Despite his advanced age, Zanardi not only found success, he found his way onto the Italian Paralympic team, where he took his hand-powered tricycle to gold at the H4-class 16km time trial on Wednesday.

He completed the course in 24 min, 50.22 sec, 27 seconds faster than his nearest competitor.

"I enjoyed every day of training. I've had a magical adventure and this is a fantastic conclusion," said Zanardi.

The 45-year-old’s London success story is about as inspirational as they come. He celebrated Wednesday by jumping out of his bike and lifting it above his head as he sat on the track he had just made his own.