Alex Zanardi’s sporting career started with him as a Formula One racecar driver, but he ended up a Paralympic cyclist who completed an iron-man competition. The story of Alex Zanardi is remarkable.
Alex Zanardi won two CART championship titles in North America and spent some time on the Formula One circuit. In 2001, however, a horrific accident saw him lose both his legs. Despite this adversity remarkably Alex returned to racing less than two years after the accident, and, with specially designed prosthetics and car, competed in the FIA World Touring Car Championship from 2003 to 2009.
In 2011, Alex decided to change sports and took up handbiking. This saw him win his first senior international handbiking medal in 2011 (silver medal in the H4 Handbike category) at the UCI World Road Para-Cycling Championships. The next year, 2012, saw him win a gold in the first Paralympic handbike event held in London. He competed on a carbon-fibre handbike that he had designed and built himself.
The over-achiever, in 2014, took on a further challenge. He took part in the gruelling Ironman challenge in Hawaii, finishing the course in under 10 hours, coming 272nd out of 2,187 competitors.
In September 2015 Zanardi competed in the Berlin Marathon using a recumbent handcycle.
At the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, he won the gold medals in the H5 category road cycling men’s time trial and mixed team relay, and also silver in the road race.
In September 2018, in a triathlon competition in Italy, Zanardi smashed the Ironman world record in the disabled category with a new world best time of 8:26’6. This time also places him as the 5th fastest able-bodied triathlete of all time.
“As you approach the finish line, you go through a tunnel of people, all of them cheering and encouraging you. Then I heard the speaker say, ‘Alessandro Zanardi, you are an Ironman!’ It was something phenomenal, something amazing. … I got very emotional at that point. Normally I don’t let things like that get to me, but yesterday I was in tears. It was truly amazing.” – Alex Zanardi
Despite facing adversity, Alex Zanardi has overcome his challenges, reinvented himself, and become a champion once more. He has co-written two books based on his life, ‘Alex Zanardi: My Story’ and ‘Alex Zanardi: My Sweetest Victory’.
Alex does not see himself as someone special. Instead, he sees himself as a regular guy dealt a bad hand and who decided to make the best of it. Everyone, he feels, is able to achieve their dreams, no matter how impossible it may seem. Alex Zanardi the speaker is a true testimony to the power of motivation and goal setting.
"As you approach the finish line, you go through a tunnel of people, all of them cheering and encouraging you. Then I heard the speaker say, 'Alessandro Zanardi, you are an Ironman!’ It was something phenomenal, something amazing. … I got very emotional at that point. Normally I don't let things like that get to me, but yesterday I was in tears. It was truly amazing."