Current Weather
The Spy FM

Racer Alex Zanardi Wins Gold Medal At London Paralympics

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
September 5, 2012

Alex Zanardi, who was a star racecar driver when he lost his legs in a 2001 crash, has won a gold medal in the London Paralympics. The Italian, 45, beat Germany’s Nobert Mosandl by more than 27 seconds to win the men’s handcycle time trial. The race took place at Brands Hatch, a track that Zanardi has previously tackled behind the wheel of high-powered racecars.

“Last time I was here I was going about five times faster but I still love this circuit,” he said this week.

Zanardi’s time of 24 minutes, 50.22 seconds — for an average speed of 24 miles per hour — proved to be untouchable. Defending Paralympic champion Oscar Sanchez of the United States was third, 45 seconds behind him.

Zanardi drove cars at Brands Hatch as recently as 2008, competing in an adapted BMW. But a year later, he entered a handcycling race — and decided to leave the cars behind. In a feature on the Paralympics website, Zanardi said, “It’s like one day you meet a woman and you say, ‘Wow! She’s beautiful! This could be the woman of my life.”

Since then, Zanardi has focused on handcycling, even creating his own racing cycle from scratch. And he’s maintained the aggressive style that was his hallmark on Formula 1 and CART circuits — going so far as to ruin his best bike in a crash in July.

Even if you’re not a racing fan, it’s very possible that you’ve seen footage of Zanardi’s crash during a CART race in Lausitz, Germany, almost exactly 11 years ago.

Toward the end of that race, Zanardi was bringing his car up to speed after a pit stop when he lost control of the vehicle and spun onto the main track. His car was effectively cut in half by another race car that struck its side while travelling at nearly 200 miles per hour.

“You know what you see, but you don’t want to believe it,” said racing circuit physician Dr. Terry Trammell, who was among the wave of rescue personnel who got to Zanardi’s shattered car. He spoke about the crash for a National Geographic documentary.

“The first thing I did was promptly slip and fall onto my hands and knees,” Trammell said. ” I thought I slipped and fell in oil, as I approached the car. But it was blood.”

That traumatic day is behind Zanardi now. His Twitter account is full of enthusiasm for racing — with a heavy dose of gratitude that he’s able to compete again.

“In my career I’ve always received a lot of support but I would not expect so much as I’m getting these days,” he wrote last week. “Thank you all!”

And then, a day later: “Just loaded my bag in the car to leave to London. For a brief moment I found myself thinking of all the things I’ve done. I’m a lucky boy!”

In 2011, Zanardi took first place in his division of the New York City Marathon. At the London Paralympics, Zanardi will also compete in the men’s road race, and the team relay. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

12AM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center