Zanardi is hoping age is no barrier to further Paralympic glory

The 49-year-old Italian is hoping to add to the two para-cycling gold medals he won at London 2012 at September’s Paralympic Games in Rio. 04 May 2016
Alex Zanardi

Italy's Alex Zanardi in action on his way to winning gold at London 2012 in the men's individual time trial H4.

ⒸGetty Images
By Poppy Penny | For the IPC

“We are doing well and this is obviously more than encouraging for the upcoming Games.”

Keeping fit is Alex Zanardi’s biggest challenge ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games as the Italian tries to stay on course to add to the Paralympic titles he won four years ago.

At the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the Italian cyclist was one of the star performers claiming gold in the road time trial and road race H4 events, and silver in the road team relay.

His achievements won him he the Best Male Games Debut Award at the 2013 Allianz Paralympic Media and Sport Awards.

At age 49, Zanardi admits that knowing his limits will be one of the key elements to Rio 2016 success.

“You always try to learn and improve your training routine by making small adjustments when needed. Now that I am approaching my 50’s, I can’t expect to be as strong as I used to be some years ago,” he said.

“However, I can still be competitive if I know exactly what my body can take. I have to feed it with the amount of work it can handle, but ease off when I need to as well.”

The former racing driver has also made some changes to his handcycle to ensure that it is completely personalised to cater to his strengths. Zanardi does not want to leave a single detail to chance.

Ahead of Rio 2016, the three-time world champion will compete at two upcoming UCI Para-Cycling Road World Cups in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, from 6-8 May and in Ostend, Belgium, from 20-22 May.

Whilst he treats these events with a great deal of importance, his preparations for Rio will see him focused on cycling and trying to block out anything that could interfere with his training.

“I put more effort in avoiding all distractions in my life,” he said.

Even if Zanardi gets to Rio in full form, he knows that the Netherlands’ Tim De Vries, who topped last year’s H5 class world rankings, will be a tough rival for gold.

“I pay attention to strong opponents like Tim (De Vries). I have full respect for him and for all the other athletes involved in our competitions. I don’t fear any, though.”

Since taking up the sport in 2007, Zanardi has experienced a great deal of success. He attributes this to his passion for training and getting the most out of himself.

“You cannot force yourself to maintain the passion for something. It is either natural or you better chase a different horizon,” he said.

Italy is proving to be strong in para-cycling, winning six titles at the 2015 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland. Luca Mazzone, in the H2 class, Vittorio Podesta (H3) and Zanardi (H5) sealed two golds each.

“We are doing well and this is obviously more than encouraging for the upcoming Games.”

With such a strong team around him and a solid knowledge of his own body and training routine, Zanardi has every right to be heading into the rest of this season with a great deal of confidence.


Sport fans from around the world can now buy their Paralympic tickets for Rio 2016 from authorised ticket resellers (ATRs).

The IPC’s Global ATR is Jet Set Sports, and Rio 2016 tickets and packages can be purchased on the CoSport website.

Residents of Brazil can buy 2016 Paralympics tickets directly from the Rio 2016 website.