Former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi is one of the most well-known faces on the Para cycling international scene. But 2018 was far from being his best year as he failed to reach the podium at his home Road World Championships in Maniago, Italy.
One year earlier, he had claimed the time trial H5 title and had taken silver in the road race H5 at the Road Worlds in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
It is at the Paralympic Games that he always shows the best version of himself. At his second Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, he won gold in the time trial H5 and was part of the Italian team that topped the podium in the mixed relay H2-5 event.
He also won silver in the road race H5, an event that saw the top three finishers all end with the same time. South Africa’s Ernst van Dyk was awarded the photo finish gold with the Netherlands’ Jetze Plat third.
Zanardi made his name as a Paralympian at London 2012, creating one of the iconic images of the Games by lifting his hand-cycle above his head after he had captured Paralympic gold in the time trial H4. He went on to win gold in the road race and silver in the mixed relay team H1-4.
The Italian first emerged on the hand-cycling scene in 2011 when he won silver in the time trial at the Road World Championships.
His performances in London won him the Best Male award at the 2013 Paralympic Sport and Media Awards.
His form continued in 2013 winning world titles in both the road race and time trial events at the Road World Championships in Baie Comeau, Canada. In 2014 he retained his time trial world title in Greenville, USA.
Despite the growing rivalry with van Dyk and de Vries, Zanardi was again double world champion in 2015 taking gold in both the time trial and road race events in Nottwil, Switzerland.
Zanardi is a former racing driver, who won Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) titles in 1997 and 1998 before signing a three-year contract as a Formula 1 driver.
In 2001 he was involved in a 200mph crash in the American Memorial 500 CART race in Germany, an accident that destroyed his vehicle and saw him lose both his legs, as well as nearly taking his life.
Impressively, Zanardi returned to car racing less than two years after 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.
It was following his retirement from car racing that Zanardi transitioned to hand-cycling.