Known as the famous F1 Italian race car driver, 47-year-old Alex Zanardi’s success transcends just one sport, as he has become equally as well known in cycling after success at multiple levels of car racing.
Zanardi won a pair of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) championship titles in 1997 and 1998. In 1998, he then signed a three-year contract as a Formula 1 driver before a critical injury in the American Memorial 500 Cart event in Germany in 2001. The accident, which took place at 200 miles per hour, destroyed his vehicle and Zanardi lost both of his legs.
Impressively, Zanardi returned to car racing fewer than two years following the accident, competing for BMW Team Italy-Spain in the FIA World Touring Car Championship from 2003-2009. His vehicle possessed a custom brake pedal that worked in concert with Zanardi’s prosthetic leg. He earned four wins during his time on the tour.
Following his retirement from car racing, Zanardi transitioned to handcycling, and he proclaimed the goal of competing for Italy at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
In his first major triumph, Zanardi captured the silver medal in the time trial H4 at the 2011 UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships.
He also claimed the handcycling division of the 2011 New York Marathon, accomplishing the feat in 1:13.58.
That propelled Zanardi to the sport’s biggest stage in further pursuit of his stated aspiration. At the London 2012 Paralympics, he won the gold medal in the individual time trial H4 (24:50.22), the individual road race H4 (2:00.32) and was part of the silver-medal winning team in the mixed team relay H1-4 (30:50.00).