Among the hundreds of runners and para-athletes in this year’s New York City Marathon, Alessandro Zanardi won the handcycle division. You may or may not have paid attention, and you may or may not recognize the name.
Alex Zanardi, a native of Italy, began to train for racing as a young teenager. Motor racing, that is. After rising through feeder series, he entered Formula 1 in 1991. After four years he switched to the CART (Champ Car) arena where his two world championships caught the attention of Frank Williams, owner of Formula 1’s Williams team, and Alex was invited to give Formula 1 another go. Sadly it was for only one season. After numerous retirements from races mixed with lackluster finishes, Alex found himself out of Formula 1 once again.
The 2000 season came and went without Alex. He began to consider re-entering CART and landed a seat for 2001. Once again, results were mixed. Then it happened: On a competitive pace in a September 2001 race, Alex was seriously injured in a violent crash and, as a result, lost both of his legs.
Alex’s open wheel racing career was over. And, as you might think, any type of racing career.
You do not know Alex.
Fitted with standard prosthetic limbs, Alex found them cumbersome and limiting as he began to plan a return to auto racing. Nothing was going to hold him back. He designed his own limbs and feet to allow him needed flexibility. By 2003 Alex was racing again, using hand controls, ultimately landing a drive in an international touring car series that became known as the WTCC. He even considered Formula 1 once again — testing a special car fitted with hand controls in 2006.
In 2007, Alex switched from motor vehicles to a self-propelled one: the handcycle. After only a few weeks of training, he placed fourth in the New York City Marathon. Alex began to steadily rise to world-class status as a handcyclist and has become a strong contender to represent Italy in the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games. Then came the other Sunday as Alex showed his championship form, taking the handcycle title in a down-to-the-wire finish — nothing less for Alex! — managing to win even after encountering problems with the chain on his cycle toward the end of the race.
So now you understand why Alex Zanardi is my hero. There’s much to learn from his resolve to pursue his passions and dreams even after a tremendous setback. There’s much to learn from his resolve, his attitude … and his championship approach to life.
He’s written two books, Alex Zanardi: My Story and Alex Zanardi: My Sweetest Victory. They should be a part of your library.
Now, are you inspired to go out and make it a great day? You should be!
About Lois Martin
Lois Martin lives in Atlanta and is a marketing and public relations advisor. In addition to having her own blog, loismarketing.com, she is a contributing editor for formula1blog.com, one of the most popular sites for Formula 1 racing news and opinion. In addition to Formula 1, Lois enjoys Georgia Bulldog football, cooking, painting and gardening.