Remember Alex Zanardi as a race car driver? I do. He was a Formula One driver who then went to the Indy open wheel racing series.
On September 15, 2001 most other major sporting events were canceled out of respect to what had just happened on September 11th. An Indy car race in Germany made the tough decision of going on with their event, partly as a “life goes on” moment and partly because the world needed some distraction. It didn't turn out well.
Alex Zanardi after his final pit stop re-entered the track gaining speed and spun out. Canadian Alex Tagliani T-boned him at 320 km/h, an unavoidable collision.
They say Zanardi legs had disintegrated like those of land mine victims. A doctor on the scene had to clamp open wounds while he was still trapped in the cockpit of the wreck. Even at that Alex lost 70% of his blood, his pelvis was fractured in 5 places and he had a lacerated liver. Three days later after awakening from an induced coma his wife told him that his legs were gone.
Only months later Zanardi learned to walk. He joked about not having to spend money on expensive shoes. He returned to auto racing with specially modified cars, but he also took up paracycling to stay in shape.
This week Zanardi, at age 45, took gold at the London Paralympics in handcycling. He jumped out of his cycle and held it up over his head. “I'm Alex Zanardi,” he said with his trademark grin, “I always have to come up with something. I have a little bit of a big head.”
Paralympians are heroes on many levels. This one happens to be a little more famous than the others, and has a few more sponsors. Still, a man and a story to admire. It chokes me up even to share it. I don't know how many people actually inspire me these days...but this guy is one of them. LEAVE COMMENTS.
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His 2001 accident at about 1:40 in. Scroll down for a 2nd video that's more inspirational.