December 15th, 2001 - We were waiting that moment since last september when Alessandro lost both legs and finally that moment it's arrived, it was an incredible emotion to see Alessandro Zanardi to leave is wheelchair to stand up unaided.
It happened this afternoon at the Palazzo dei Congressi at Bologna - Zanardi's birthplace - during the popular celebration "Caschi d'Oro" organized by the Italian weekly Autosprint.
Like in the past years, during the celebration were awarded the most worthy drivers and constructors; amongst the awarded, there were Michael Schumacher as F1 World Champion, Jean Todt on behalf of Ferrari as F1 Constructor World Champion), Corrado Provera on behalf of Peugeot as Rally Constructor World Champion.
It seemed that the celebration was at the end when Schumacher received his award but at that moment the speaker told to the spectators about another Casco D'oro to give, saying also to watch the video on the big screen on the stage.
Immediately a thunderous applause risen from the stall because on that screen appeared a short video with some of the fantastic exploits of Alessandro when he was in the CART Championship.
If possible the applause increased when Alessandro appeared driving his wheelchair on the stage and at that moment all the spectators on the stall were standing in honour of him.
Submerged by the great applause, Alessandro with a cautious movement and helped by Dr. Claudio Costa and by another man (see the sequence above), left the wheelchair to remain on his new legs unaided: at that point the applause became an ovation and the eyes of the majority of the spectators became damp.
"I wish to thank all the friends ...." tried to say Alessandro but immediately was silenced by another applause, ".... I wish to thank my friends of Autosprint, I wish to thank and to greet the people of the stall .... and then I wish to say a few words to those this evening are here as simple fans, you are the people that sent to me the e-mails to which I couldn't reply yet, you are the people that wrote to me that letters I read even when I was at Berlin with some phleboclysis attached, you are those always have supported me in the bad and in the good moments but above all in the good moments when you was jumping on the chair for some of my overtakings in USA, you are those whom I dedicate this evening".
And about his condition: "I'm not able to walk yet but this is (to stand up) the first step of the most important race, I have an extraordinary team, the famous Dr.Costa ....." and then Alessandro was stopped by a very long applause.
"It's a very long time that I was not getting excited like now, I'm so excited that I fell my legs trembling!" said Alessandro causing a big general laugh.
"However I wish to thank all of you, the race is very hard but I will do my best to win it".
At this point the celebration was at the end, Michael Schumacher awarded Alessandro with a special Casco d'Oro (on the left) and from the stall a chorus: "A-les-san-dro, A-les-san-dro, A-les-san-dro , Alex , Alex ...."
Motorsport.com thanks digilander.iol.it/alexzanardifan for this item. They have video of this event on their site.