CHAMPCAR/CART: Alex Zanardi press conference, part II

Cart Media Teleconference Presented By Worldcom An Interview With Alex Zanardi May 28, 2002 Part 2 of 3: Q I hesitate to bring this up, I am wondering, No. 1 of what things you remember from that day, if anything and No. 2 if you have ever...

Cart Media Teleconference
Presented By Worldcom
An Interview With Alex Zanardi
May 28, 2002

Part 2 of 3:

Q I hesitate to bring this up, I am wondering, No. 1 of what things you remember from that day, if anything and No. 2 if you have ever seen a replay of the accident itself?

Alex Zanardi: Well, I don't remember much. The only thing I remember was, of that day, actually drivers introductions, I was kidding with Tony (Kanaan) just before the race.

I don't remember a single lap of the race itself, so....I don't know. And then it goes back to when I opened my eyes, and my wife was there next to me to tell me what had happened.

I did watch many times the replay of the accident. I actually got a copy from the closed circuit video, you know, the one that the circuit has which stays on me even after the accident. It's pretty straight forward actually, and you know, at the beginning I mean, I can see that I was opening my shield, my helmet and then trying to undo my belt, and then, you know, so there was a time in which I must have been awake and I must have realized you know, what had happened. I must have said, man, it's going to be tough to fix this one (laughs), but I don't remember anything of that. I don't know if it was because of all the blood I lost, or if it is just human nature that when it is too bad it tells you, you know, we're going to erase that information. I don't know.

Q Again it's great to hear from you. Look forward to seeing you at the racetrack.

Q I guest first question I have is what kind of car are you driving?

Alex Zanardi: It's a BMW, can I say it? Free advertising.

Q Maybe you will get another free one out of it.

Alex Zanardi: I actually had to pay for it, but anyway -- I got a good discount. No, it's a BMW, it's a Touring Five Series. I thought it was a very practical car for my needs and in fact it is -- but I am actually changing it because the seat is too low, you know, like from the floor of the car, so when I set my -- the prosthetic legs have a little edge which tends to hurt a little bit if I have been in the car more than two hours, or so. So I am actually switching to a four-wheel drive big car on which the seat is much higher from the floor of the car and so it will be for me like sitting almost on a chair, much more, and that's why I am doing that change because it's much, much more comfortable for me. It's still a BMW. I am buying an X5.

Q One of the things I guess I am interested in is what, through this whole experience, you said you haven't changed much, but what have you learned about yourself, if anything?

Alex Zanardi: That I am a troublemaker. (Laughs).

I don't know. Maybe I just don't ask that question to myself. Man, I mean, there's days where I am very miserable, you know, and I keep thinking, you know, if I had my legs, and doing this and that. But even when I had these days, I still do things, so today, there's always a good side and a bad said in everything. Like I was talking to Robin Miller earlier on and telling him that I had a flat tire when I came out of my boat today. At the beginning I was kind of sweating. I said, man, I didn't need this one. But then I changed that pattern so I was very proud of myself, I was all alone and I changed the tire on my own, and I didn't know whether I could do it before, so I was very, very proud. Whereas if I would have had my legs, feelings would only be, you know, bad luck that I have a flat tire. Everybody can change a tire, right, but not everybody that has to be amputated on both legs could say he has done that. So once I had done that I was satisfied. That's the same thing that I feel when I go out and I walk for three kilometers, or this is the same thing that I feel when I can walk without the cane and I can do everything. I have a house in Italy where we went the other week, and I said -- I was there with my friends and I said I am going to try to walk in the garden without the cane. We have a big garden. They said, "Yeah, yeah." They thought I was kidding because there's actually a step to go down from the house. I just went and that was it. I took the step and then I walk on the grass and I came back and they were all amazed because I was walking on the grass without the cane. Now, for everybody that has a little bit of experience with amputees, it's really tough because you have no joints basically. The only things are your hip, the knees are not there, the heels are not there, so it's really difficult. But I did it. So it was a big, big satisfaction. For me this is sort of a new life, right, and every day that I do something new it's a little win. I am the only crowd. There's no crowd like when I won Long Beach, you know, passing with two laps to go and taking the lead with two laps to go at Cleveland, but still it's an achievement for me. It's progress. I am moving forward. It doesn't matter, you know, my base, my start went down much, much -- to a much lower point compared to where it was before. But I am still climbing up. I am fighting and every time I achieve a result I realize that I am fighting; that I am improving, and so it's a reason for me to smile.

Q Another thing is, has there been anyone who has been especially important to you during this whole recovery period, any of the drivers, or anything like that that you have drawn strength from that have been especially encouraging?

Alex Zanardi: Well, everyone had a smile for me that was in Berlin. Obviously it was great for me to feel so many people so close to me. I know, for instance, Jimmy Vasser was there really long and I could read his eyes, I could read in his eyes terrible pain in terms of, he was hurt. He didn't want, you know, his good friend Alex to be in that situation. And Tony as well and many other drivers who were there, I mean, I told to P.T. - Paul Tracy - on the phone, and his voice was like, you know, he was going to try to cry and many other drivers, Alex Tagliani himself was actually very hard for me to try to pick him up because, you know, I wanted him to feel totally free from any responsibility. I mean, he doesn't have any responsibility in the accident, but I mean, I just came to realize that I had a lot of friends, I have a lot of people that love me. Obviously my wife is very important, very important because in all this time she never watched me with that look that means "I am sorry" or that means "Poor you." She always looked me in the eyes straight and said: "I know you are going to do it" and as proof of that, while everybody was doubting that I would survive and even if I would have survived I would have been just, you know, probably hurt in my brain, or not able to move my limbs at all, or that maybe my kidneys wouldn't have worked - all the sort of troubles that 99 times out of 100 somebody that has gone through what I have, has, well, while everybody was telling her that she had to pray, she called BMW and ordered me the car with manual controls because she knew I was going to want to drive the car the very next day I would get out of the hospital. And so when I got out of the hospital my car was there sitting for me. And that tells you which kind of reaction my wife had, what was going through her brain while she had her husband lying in a hospital bed in a coma. That's her, and I am very, very great to have such a woman on my side.

Q The Sports Illustrated article made quite a reference to Ashley Judd being there with your wife at the time, and I am wondering, you said that everybody around you - the attitude of everybody else around you changed. Who was important to your wife during this entire period?

Alex Zanardi: Well, actually my wife and I am not going to make her very popular because she always said that the Americans, they smile a lot but they don't really mean it, and she actually came to understand that the Americans they smile a lot and they really mean it. And the heart that everybody showed you in the circumstances, which is just unbelievable. Ashley, you are right, she was very, very close to Daniella and she was basically next to her every minute, and every minute that Daniella wanted her to be there and so she was very, very helpful. But many other people, you know, many other people, and that's why I want to come to the states and see all these friends that I have.

Q  The one thing I want to ask you, you said your relatives have changed
more than you.  In what way do you notice that?

Alex Zanardi: Well, you know, they probably whenever I mention, you know, could I go back to race with any sort of car, they turn white and they don't move a single muscle in their body anymore. I just guess it's sort of a very, very natural reaction out of somebody that has lived everything bad of the accident I had and that's very, very scared that something like this could happen again. So I would just assume that if I would ever go back and race on an oval again they would be terrified for me to do that.

Q There were times when you said you get depressed. Obviously that's definitely understandable. During those times do you ever think back, God, I am just lucky to be in the situation that I am right now, it could be a helluva lot worse?

Alex Zanardi: Yeah, obviously you can't - that helps, but on the other end you cannot just simply say, you know, I am lucky, I am lucky to be here. I mean, this is what everybody keeps telling you, but you know - it could always be worse, yes. I guess when I go there in the center, when I do my rehabilitation, I look at the people with only one leg and I actually envy them because I'd love to have one leg. I guess the ones that only have one leg, they envy the ones that they are only missing one leg below the knee, and on and on. (Noise in the background) That's my son that's joining the press conference. (Laughs) . And so I guess you have to look at your own problems. You have to try to improve your own situation and sometime along the way there's times where you cannot do what you would want and so you get a little disappointed. Not really depressed, kind of disappointed. And I guess it's normal.

At the beginning you can help that by saying I could have lost my life. I could have - I could have lost more than two legs; I could have had some sort of consequence, but after sometime you start to say, man, I wish I had my legs back, it would be much easier. But most of the time I say that smiling. I am not - I know that I am a lucky guy. I know that that after an accident like the one I had, you know, only one guy out of a thousand can really go back home and still live. And I am that one. So I am totally aware of that.

But on the other end, sometimes I tend to sweat. Having said that, for instance, I haven't had to drop one single tear of cry after my accident. Maybe if I could cry sometime it would help. But I am not - I don't think I am a tough guy, I just - I just have a very good relationship with life in general, and therefore, I can still see a lot of positives in my life.

I often get asked the question, oh, your son must have been very, very important for your motivation to keep going or your wife or the people that love you.

Yeah, they are very, very important, but they are not important for my motivation. My motivation for the man I am; my motivation it's to be alive. That's more than sufficient to fight and try to get better again than the fact that I have a son and a great family is a huge plus, but it's not that if I wouldn't have what a great son or that great family I would now kill myself because I wouldn't see any reason to live, you know? It's truly the opposite.

Q Has your relationship with your son changed at all because I notice that you said kids sometimes have a hard time reacting to certain things like this. Have you noticed has he changed at all?

Alex Zanardi: No.

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Alex Zanardi, part III

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Alex Zanardi , Robin Miller