Ten years on from an horrific racing car accident, former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi is planning a raid on the 2012 Paralympic Games as a hand cyclist. The 45-year-old Italian lost both of his legs in September 2001 after a horror collision in Germany with another driver at the European leg of the CART championship series, a competition which Zanardi had won twice in the past.
Doctors revealed that Zanardi was ten minutes from death after his car was sliced into two parts, and that his heart stopped seven times. It was a miracle that he survived and his rehabilitation has been a lengthy process. His injuries were bad enough, but Zanardi also admits that he suffered from depression in the aftermath and the years that followed.
But aided by the birth of his son three years ago, Zanardi is now looking ahead to the future and a spot in the hand cycling event at the 2012 Paralympics. Fittingly, the venue for the race is a motor racing circuit - Brands Hatch in Kent. He is currently ranked the number one hand cyclist in the world, having won the New York Marathon earlier this year (a race he also completed in 2007), and if all goes to plan and he gets to London with no injury setbacks he will be the favourite for the 20km road race and the time trial.
“I shouldn’t have survived that accident,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “I basically survived for about 50 minutes with less than one litre of blood. Science says that’s simply impossible.
“I’m not the youngest [on the hand cycling circuit], that’s for sure. There’s one Dutch kid who is 20, he will be 21 when we get to London. He is very, very strong, a very nice kid. But what can you do? I’m an old fart. But I’m not discouraged by it. Besides, the exciting thing is to try to win the gold; to go out every day and train with that goal in mind. Ultimately, if I get to London and discover that other athletes are just more talented than me, and I finish fifth or sixth, then it wouldn’t mean that morning that I have been wasting my time. Because believing it to be possible, and doing it, that is the fun part.”