You can take the man out of the race, but neither the career of this man. Such is the story of Italian athlete Alex Zanardi. Former Formula One driver won his third gold medal of Paralympics on Wednesday, a day before the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Champ Car that cost him both legs and almost his life.
The 49-year-old won the hand H5 cycling time trial route 20 kilometers in Rio de Janeiro to add to the two gold medals won his debut at the Paralympic Games in London four years ago. “Normally I do not thank God for this kind of thing that I believe God has more important things to worry about,” he told NBC. “But today is too much. I had to raise my eyes and thank him.
“I feel very fortunate, I feel that my life is a privilege that never ends.”
Zanardi, a champion twice in the Champ Car series, US based which is now Indy Car, he competed in 41 grand prix between 1991 and 1999 with his last season in Williams.
had both legs amputated above the knee, with his heart for seven times since lost all but one liter of blood in his body, after the terrible accident at the Lausitzring in Germany on September 15, 2001.
The Italian was leading the race when he lost control of his Reynard-Honda in the final laps and Canadian Alex Tagline ran into him at more than 350kph.
“The car was broken into two parts, one part of me stayed with the car and the other bit, it was my legs, was ‘arrivederci’ in the other direction,” he said before competing in the 2012 London Games.
Zanardi, who had been the last rites, returned to racing a year and a half after the accident and competed in the World Touring Car Championship until 2009, at which time he had taken the hand of the bicycle.
Two years after the accident, he returned to the Lausitzring and finished the 13 laps he was unable to complete during the race.