Alex Zanardi is the guy who never gives up. He is a person which inspires generations and has become the idol of many young kids. Alex has taught to all of us that life is hard, but we must never give up.
Born in Italy, on 23 October 1966, Alex Zanardi had the chance to race in Formula 1 for Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams. In 1991, the Italian driver made his debut in Formula 1 with Jordan, where he remained only for one year. The following year, Zanardi raced for Minardi, but again the next year he changed a team and signed a contract with Lotus.
In Lotus, Alex, had his best moment of his F1 career. He scored his first point in the Brazilian Grand Prix in 1993. Alessandro qualified 15th, but after a tremendous race, he managed to finish sixth, behind two British drivers, Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell. Despite the good result that Alex had in Brazil, 1993 was not a good year for the Italian driver. Zanardi had an accident with his bicycle, but that was not enough to hold him off the sport. Alex raced in Germany with several broken bones, but a spun didn’t let him finish the race.
Zanardi’s injuries forced him to postpone his racing in 1994, Alessandro had to wait to fully recover from his injuries. Hence, he missed the season premiere, but he returned in the Spanish Grand Prix, where he replaced Pedro Lamy, who at that time was racing for Lotus.
In 1999, Zanardi raced for his last time in Formula 1. At that time he was driving for Williams and his last race was in Suzuka. The Italian qualified 16th, but he forced to quit the race due to electrical issues.
That was the end of his career as an F1 driver.
15 September 2001
Zanardi continued his career as a driver in another series, in Indy Car. At the EuroSpeedway Lausitz September 15, Zanardi had a terrible crash which it could cost him his life. During the final laps he was leading the race, his team decided to call him for a late pit-stop, when he re-joined the race, Alex had spun and lost control of his car, while his he returned to the track, unable to control his vehicle, was avoided by Patrick Carpentier, but Alex Tagliani crashed on Zanardi’s car. Tagliani crashed on the side of Zanardi’s car, behind the front wheel. From the crash, the Italian lost both his legs and lot of blood. The doctors managed to stabilise his condition and save his life.
After his surgery, the Italian joined a rehabilitation program, he even designed and built his own custom legs. Zanardi continued to race in European Touring Car Championship. Alessandro won his World Series race in August 2005, he also won in Istanbul in 2006 and won twice in Brno in 2008 and in 2009. At the end of 2009, the Italian decided to quit the WTCC series.
In 2006, BMW Sauber gave a chance to Alex to drive a modified Formula 1 car, where he could control it with his hands. Zanardi knew that he would never sign a contract with an F1 team, but still, it was very special for him.
Zanardi’s new chapter
In 2007, Zanardi decided to try something different and started practising with a handcycle. His aim was to enter the Italian Paralympic team. Zanardi managed to fulfil his dreams. In 2011, Alex won a silver medal at the UCI Paracycling.
It was not long before his first race in London’s Games. In 2012, the Italian lifted with his hands his handcycle above his head. It was a very memorable moment at Brands Hands race circuit, it was the moment where Alex Zanardi celebrated his first gold medal in Paralympic games.
Alex won a gold medal in the individual road race H4 and a silver medal in the mixed relay team H1-4.
The Italian made himself known to everyone, he was awarded the Best Male at the 2013 Paralympic Sport and Media awards.
“This is a great accomplishment, one of the greatest of my life.” Zanardi said about his gold medal in London.
Zanardi travelled to Brazil with the thought to win more medals and inspire the world.
“Even my accident, what happened to me, became the biggest opportunity of my life, all the things I am doing today are related to my new condition.” He said.
“When you find yourself in a certain situation you have to identify where you want to go and focus on what you can achieve on that given day.Whether it is a small thing or big one, step-by-step you can make things happen.” Zanardi added.
In Rio, the Italian claimed his third gold medal in Paralympics. He won the H5 time trial at Pontal in Rio de Janeiro. It was a hard race for Alex, he passed Tripp over the second half of the route and won the gold medal by 2.74 seconds.
“It has been a long journey, which basically started the day after the London games when I decided that I would focus on a new horizon in my life and that this would be Rio. After the exciting years of preparation and coming here to a course that was not really my kind, of course, it is just fantastic to finally enjoy the taste of gold once more.” Said Zanardi.
More than fifteen years have passed since Zanardi’s terrible accident, but the Italian is still racing and he never gave up. During his hardest moments in his life, Alessandro found the courage and he didn’t give up.
He is a legend for me, and he is the idol that all the generations must have and follow. I don’t want to underestimate any Paralympic athlete, every each of them has a history which I am sure that it is very admirable.
Never give up.