Just after September 11, 2001, the CART racing series held what was pretty much the first international sporting event after the terrorist attacks at the Lausitzring Circuit in Germany. But instead of signaling some sort of return to normalcy, it ended in a horrific accident involving 1997/1998 series champion Alex Zanardi.
both of his legs in the crash and nearly died. But he somehow didn't let
that get him down. And now, 11 years later, he's a different sort of
champion. Zanardi just won gold in handcycling at the Paralympic Games. Read his amazing story.
that crash, it was touch and go for quite a while. Zanardi was given
the last rites at the race track with oil from his engine. He was in a
medically induced coma for weeks. Yet somehow he pulled through.
got prosthetic legs, which he said he liked because he could now
"choose his own height." He appeared on the Late Show with David
Letterman and made a few jokes. It's that sense of humor that he credits with helping him return to a normal life.
2003, he returned to the site of his crash and drove a specially
equipped car with hand controls for 13 laps, the 13 laps he didn't
finish after his accident. Zanardi also drove a specially equipped BMW
in the World Touring Car Championship, where he was a race winner.
after those adventures, Zanardi, who is now 45-years old, started
handcycling almost by mistake. In 2007, he finished fourth in the New
York City Marathon handcycle class. The kicker? He only trained for four
weeks. In his fourth attempt, he won the New York City Marathon.
goal was to earn a place on the Italian team for the 2012 Paralympics
in England. He did just that, and today his training came to fruition:
Alex Zanardi just won the men's road time trial by 27 seconds.
Zanardi was always known for his ebullient and effervescent personality
when he was racing in the states. You know how racers celebrate a win
by doing donuts and burnouts? Zanardi started that.
Since he lost
his legs, Zanardi has been known as an inspiration to his fellow
racers. He never let it get him down and he never blamed Alex Tagliani,
the driver that hit his car and broke it in half, for the loss of his
legs. He just continues to be positive and lead his life to the fullest.
you'd expect, the racing community is overjoyed at Alex's gold medal.
And, of course, they're lighting up the Twitterverse with their