Thursday, September 6, 2012

Alex Zanardi wins 16K handcycling at 2012 Paralympics

Formula Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi has a new successful racing career. After experiencing a terrible crash in the 2001 CART Lausitzring race in Germany which severed both legs he has made an incredible recovery.

From the Fox Sports article :

Alex Zanardi just loves to race. But what he really likes to do is win. Overcoming grief WE SHALL OVERCOME Many athletes have persevered through tragic circumstances. The former Formula One driver took the Paralympic gold medal Wednesday in paracycling - a hand cycle powered by the arms - at the Brands Hatch race track, posting a time of 24 minutes, 50.22 seconds. The victory capped an incredible journey for the 45-year-old who almost died in a horrific accident at a 2001 CART race in Germany. `'It's an amazing feeling,'' a clearly exuberant Zanardi said. ''I'm really, really happy for the result.'' Zanardi celebrated by sliding out of his cycle and lifting it over his head with one hand and raising his other arm, fist clenched, to the sky. It was unusual. It was on purpose. ''I'm Alex Zanardi,'' he said with a huge grin, his Italian accent dragging each syllable. ''I always have to come up with something. I have a little bit of a big head.'' Zanardi's journey to the Paralympics began at the American Memorial 500 on Sept. 15, 2001, at the Eurospeedway Lausitz in Germany - the only American-based series to go forward on the weekend after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Zanardi, a former two-time CART champion, had had a difficult season. He started 22nd in a field of 27, but the car was responding well. He was enjoying the drive, passing one car after another, until with 13 laps to go he was in the lead. Zanardi went into his final pit stop and the crew chief waved him off urging him to ''Go, go, go!'' But as he built up speed to get back into the race, the car spun out of control and he veered onto the track. Canadian driver Alex Tagliani, traveling at close to 200 mph (320 kph), could not avoid him. The reinforced carbon fiber cone of Tagliani's car sliced through the area beside Zanardi's left front wheel and cockpit, the weakest part of the vehicle. On the track, Dr. Terry Trammel slipped and fell as he raced to the wreckage. He thought he had fallen in oil, but it was Zanardi's blood.

Zanardi had lost almost 75% of his blood and severed both legs instantly near the knees. His survival looked bleak as the rescue crew approached what remained of his car (warning graphic video).

Clickable link ->

In his own words, “I shouldn’t have survived that accident,” he says “I basically survived for about 50 minutes with less than one litre of blood. Science says that’s simply impossible”. He returned to the track 2 years later to complete the 13 laps he had remaining.

Initially he had taking up handcycling to stay in shape. After being invited to the 2007 NYC Marathon for a pasta party being thrown by sponsor Barilla, he decided to enter the race, which he finished fourth. In 2011 he had won in his category.

From Fox Sports:

  On Wednesday, he defeated one of the best in the world - American Oscar ''Oz'' Sanchez, who won a gold medal in the time trial at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing and a bronze medal in the road race. Sanchez took the bronze in London with a time of 25 minutes, 35.36 seconds.
Norbert Mossandl of Germany won the silver in London with a time of 25 minutes, 17.40 seconds.
Zanardi knew the Brands Hatch course north of London would be tough - he once drove it in a race car. To make things worse, he had a bad crash with his favorite bike a few weeks ago - a picture on his Twitter feed showed a crumpled vehicle, its front wheel askew.
But by Wednesday, all that was forgotten. He said Vasser had called him Tuesday night and promised him a car for the Indianapolis 500 - if he won the gold.
`'I'll have to call him back tonight and say `Jimmy. I got the gold medal!' `' he said. '''How about the car?'''

Pre-London Paralympic Telegraph article ->

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