The Alex Zanardi story is one that most people do not know about. I didn’t either until I saw him on a late night television talk show in November of 2014. He walked out and sat down and proceeded to tell his story.
Alex Zanardi was born in Bologna, Italy in 1966. He had an early inspiration for racing when he built his own racing karts from a dustbin of pipes from his father’s workplace. From that humble beginning, he became involved in European road racing in its various formats.
He moved onto Formula One Racing for a few years with mixed results while enduring crashes and injuries. From Formula one he moved to CHAMP Car racing and became one of its most popular drivers through his daring style and victories.
In the 2000 season, Zanardi was not signed for a team so he moved back to Formula I racing. In his most competitive race of the 2001, he suffered a violent accident at the Euro Speedway Lausitz on September 15th while trying to merge back onto the track. His car was impacted from the side at high speed, severing the nose of the car. Zanardi lost both legs (one at and one above the knee) and nearly three quarters of his blood volume. His life was saved due to some rapid medical interaction.
You would think the story ends there. Zanardi was fitted with two prosthetic limbs and began an ambitious rehabilitation program. Zanardi was not happy with the limbs and so he designed and built his own custom legs. He wanted them made to be able to withstand the rigors of race car driving. By 2002, he was back on the track in a specially designed car to take test laps and in 2003 he was back competing. Zanardi has been racing ever since in various formats and cars.
In 2006, Zanardi took up hand cycling as part of an exercise program. With only four weeks of training, in 2007, he achieved 4th place in the New York City Marathon in the Handcycling Division. He took up the sport in earnest to compete in major handcycling events. He won the Venice Marathon in 2009, the Rome City Marathon in 2010 and the New York City Marathon in 2011. His crowning achievement in this sport was the Gold Medals he won in the 2012 Paralympics in London.
As with Zanardi, there are no limitations. Zanardi completed the 2014 Ironman World Championship with a time of 9:47 ranking 272 overall and 19th out of 247 in the 45-49 year category. He used a hand bike for the cycling section and an Olympic wheelchair for the running section.
Zanardi has lived his life with the greatest of passion. Zanardi is the rarest of humans that cannot be stopped to achieve his goals with grace and humility.