Nancy Knapp Schilke
Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi earned another medal as a paracyclist; this at the London Paralympics in the Individual H4 at the Brands Hatch circuit. Racing his handcyclist on a circuit he raced on in his motorsports career, the Italian placed first to grab his first gold medal.
The two-time CART champion and past Formula One driver earned his first international Medal, a silver one, last year in September at World Road Para-Cycling Championships representing his homeland. His desire was to race for Italy at this year’s Paralympic contest in England.
He is a tremendous person and true ‘racer’ at heart.
Zanardi lost both legs at a CART event in 2001 in Germany. While most would give up, he did not. Instead he returned to motorsports with a BMW in a car built specially for the Italian. He competed in the FIA World Touring Car Championship before retiring in 2009, and many will always remember the day he earned his first victory in 2005. He left WTCC with four career wins.
His gold medal at the London Paralympics was spectacular as he nearly ran away by setting a time of 24:50.22. At the age of 45, Zanardi took on nine competitors in the 16km time trail, and by the halfway point, the Italian had a 14 second lead. German handcyclist Norbert Mosandl was trying to stay up with Zanardi, but it was clear that Zanardi had the gold medal in his hand.
In 2007 the Italian finished fourth in the New York Marathon handcycling class. In 2010, Zanardi took the victory in the Rome City Marathon. He returned to the NYC event in 2011, and notched the victory.
Zanardi still has two more events at Brands Hatch: The handcycling road race on September 7 and then the team relay on September 8.
Hie friend and former team owner Chip Ganassi said, “Nothing Alex does surprises me anymore. He is a tremendous person and true ‘racer’ at heart. Whether it’s Indy cars or hand bikes, Alex has always been a terrific competitor. We all know he showed that talent when he was part of Team Target here in America, but today he showed the rest of the world his truly invincible spirit. I have had the good fortune to share many victories with Alex over the years but I don’t know that I have ever been so proud of him.”