Alex Zanardi: Race Car Driver, Paralympic Gold Medalist

Another race was almost over.

As Alex Zanardi emerged from the pit at the EurtoSpeedway Lausitz, he had one goal in mind: winning.  The race was in its final laps, and Zanardi had been leading.  If he could just keep the pace, maybe he could win.  Maybe he could be a champion racer again like he had been 3 years earlier.

But as his car came back on the track, the rear end swerved.  Fellow racer Patrick Carpentier blazed passed at full speed, narrowly escaping a full on collision.  A split second later came Alex Tagliani hot on Carpentier’s trail.

Only Tagliani wasn’t able to steer about of the way.  At a speed of approximately 200 mph, Tagliani collided with tip of Alex Zanardi’s car, slicing the front straight off.

Shards of metal and plastic reigned down upon the track, and when all stood still, Alex Zanardi remained fastened inside his car, both of his legs completely gone.

Barely Escaping from the Wreckage

During the aftermath of the crash, Alex Zanardi lost three quarters of his body’s blood supply.  His heart stopped seven times.  One leg was severed just below the knee.  The other, just above.

And yet, by some miracle, Alex Zanardi survived.  Where some would have been too traumatized to ever get in a car again, Zanardi was determined to return to racing.

Shortly after beginning his extensive physical rehabilitation, Zanardi was fitted with a pair of prosthetic legs.  Finding them to be too heavy and clumsy, he decided to design his own pair.

A pair that could be used in racing.

Less than two years after a car accident nearly claimed his life, Alex Zanardi was back behind the wheel of a car going 200 mph.  While he performed admirably, his physical situation forced him to drive a car operated by hand controls.  This ultimately limited driving, particularly around turns.

So Zanardi turned his sites to a different kind of racing.

Going for the Gold

Looking for a place where he could once again be competitive, Zanardi decided to try out handcycling.  After a mere four weeks of training, he finished 4th in the handcycle division of the New York City Marathon.

He was instantly hooked and decided to go for a spot on Italy’s Paralympic team in the 2012 London Games.  Not only did he make the team, but on September 5th, 2012, Alex Zanardi won a gold medal.

Almost exactly eleven years after a car crash claimed his legs, Zanardi was a champion once more.  And he’s still not down.  He has stated he hopes to participate in the 2013 Indianapolis 500.  A lofty goal, but for Alex Zanardi, it would seem nothing is impossible.

« Back to Blog