Posted on November 7, 2011
Screen shot 2011-11-07 at 14.07.42

As motorsport continues to come to terms with the death of Dan Wheldon in an Indycar accident a few weeks ago, this weekend there was a heart warming story of a driver who himself was once caught up in an accident on an oval, lost his legs as a result, but has found a new outlet for his competitive drive.

Former Lotus, Jordan and Williams driver Alessandro Zanardi won Sunday’s New York City Marathon’s handcycle division yesterday with a time of 1 hour, 13 minutes and 58 seconds.

Zanardi lost his legs in an accident in 2001 and since then returned to racing with the World Touring Car championship. He started racing in marathons in 2007 and finished fourth on his first attempt in New York two years ago. He won the 2009 Venice Marathon and 2010 Rome Marathon.

Zanardi is hoping to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics representing Italy and to do that needs to accumulate enough points from events like the New York Marathon, in order to be invited to compete in London. It appears he’s well on his way to achieving his goal.

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Alex Zanardi wins New York Marathon
42 Responses

  1.   1. Posted By: Matthew Stephens
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:14 pm 

    Superb

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  2.   2. Posted By: Pete in the west
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:27 pm 

    What a fantastic insperation Zanardi is driving touring cars and ‘pedalling’ his trike must come with a fair degree of pain, this guys got balls !!

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  3.   3. Posted By: ed24f1
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:32 pm 

    Hopefully he is selected for the Olympics! I read an interview with him a few months back in which he said that his chances aren’t great of being selected, as his chosen sport is quite competitive, and as such, the medal chances are, by probability, lower than other sports in which Italy may choose to send entrants.

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  4.   4. Posted By: MikeR
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:33 pm 

    Once a racer, always a racer – big respect!

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  5.   5. Posted By: Sonja Hutchinson
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:38 pm 

    It’s so wonderful to hear of Alex’s brilliant achievement it’s so good to hear about him again I am huge formula one fan and it is good to hear of drivers who have now left f1 maybe James you could get the BBC to do a feature on the pre race show piece on x drivers now and again

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  6.   6. Posted By: Chapor
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:42 pm 

    Respect.

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  7.   7. Posted By: Werewolf
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 3:53 pm 

    Zanardi’s post-accident demeanour has always impressed me greatly and I wish him every success with his Olympic quest following the weekend’s landmark victory.

    As one who tires of hype very quickly, I had planned on ignoring the 2012 Olympics more or less completely but I will certainly watch and cheer for Zanardi, should he qualify.

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  8.   8. Posted By: Carl Sheen
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 4:29 pm 

    Truly amazing person Alex Zanardi, might not have been the greatest F1 driver, but his feats since losing his legs must be an inspiration for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

    Maximum respect to the man

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  9.   9. Posted By: Carlos Marques
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 4:51 pm 

    Awesome! Alex is an inspirational person. Now all he needs to do is to find a way to do his trademark doughnuts at the finish line with that race bike!

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  10.   10. Posted By: Norman C
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 4:53 pm 

    I have to give respect to the man who in the face of adversity decides to reach for higher goals. He lost his legs and now is on his way to the olimpics.

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  11.   11. Posted By: theUKdude
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 4:53 pm 

    Quality … good for him!

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  12.   12. Posted By: Adam67
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 6:38 pm 

    I don’t have many heroes, but Alex is one of my few. Rock on man.

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    rvd Reply:

    Amen.

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  13.   13. Posted By: Rob Newman
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 7:09 pm 

    I really admire this man’s courage and determination.

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  14.   14. Posted By: David Ryan
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 7:25 pm 

    Really pleased for Alex, and like everyone else massive respect to him for what he has achieved thus far. To get to the level he has done in as short a space of time is no mean feat, and I very much hope he will be in the Paralympics in 2012. On the back of this performance, I think he’s in very good shape indeed.

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  15.   15. Posted By: Adam Taylor
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 7:38 pm 

    What a fantastic achievement.

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  16.   16. Posted By: Petersen S
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 8:48 pm 

    Truly inspiring. Alex recently entered and finished the Venice Marathon. He ran (or hand biked) out of competition as he was PULLING his friend Francesco Canali in another wheelchair, Francesco has ALS (a motor neuron disease). Just before the finish – the cameras already pulling back to make the shot Alex crossing the line – Alex stopped, hopped out of his wheelchair, pushed his friend across the line (in the other wheelchair) – just so they can cross as a team. For me, with all the background of Alex, Sports Moment of the year.
    (you can see it on YouTube – one does not have to speak the language to understand great moments in any sport: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IiNXBI7blYY)

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    Ahmed Reply:

    Thanks so much for that. What a great person. Alex, you rock.

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    Brisbane Bill Reply:

    Yes, thanks for the link. Truly inspirational. This is now saved on my desktop and whenever I think I am having a tough time or things aren’t going my way I shall look at this video clip. He was an exciting driver in Indy Car and won his titles in style but his achievements since his big accident and the approach he has taken to his altered reality is not only exceptional but should be such a huge motivation for anyone, whether they are a sporting competitor or not. I hope to see him compete in the paralympics.

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    Rodger Reply:

    What a courageous and great man! This is the kind of hero the world needs. Well done Alex – you have inspired me more than you will ever know!

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  17.   17. Posted By: Robie
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 9:01 pm 

    This man is something else. I have read quite a few interviews before and after his massive accident and he has always been an inspirational person, also seemed very humble inlight of his achievements.

    Somehow I cannot see other top line drivers attempt something like this after their Motorsport careers.

    Respect +. Good luck Alex.

    Good luck Alex.

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  18.   18. Posted By: Chris Acton
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 9:47 pm 

    Adapt and overcome at it’s finest! Alex is an inspiration.

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  19.   19. Posted By: GG
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 9:52 pm 

    I met Alessandro back in 1991 when he drove for the Jordan Team. The 191 was on show here in Dublin and myself and my brother (then aged 9 and 15) kept asking if Eddie or the drivers would be around. Sure enough, Alessandro would be around for a few minutes. He was being ushered through the floor when we recognised him (nobody else seemed to know who he was) and we got his autograph. He didn’t seem to speak any English, but he seemed very nice and since that day, I’ve always been a fan. As a keen marathon/amateur runner myself, I know how hard it can be to cover such distances – but I can’t even imagine how tough this road has been for him. I want to wish Alessandro all the best for the future and to keep up the great work. I always thought him to be one of the ‘good guys’ in the pit lane. My family will be cheering you on in 2012. ps. Thanks for the autograph!

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  20.   20. Posted By: Matt W
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 10:03 pm 

    Very happy for Zanardi, glad he has found a superb outlet for his competitive nature despite the rough hand he was dealt.

    James, it may be worth mentioning his two Champ car titles for some of your younger fans/readers. His never give up, balls to the walls style was much more effective over in the states than he found in both his F1 careers.

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  21.   21. Posted By: Juthan
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 11:25 pm 

    Have there been any other F1 drivers who have also competed at an Olympics?

    J

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    James Allen Reply:

    Jackie Stewart was due to compete in shooting but blew it at the trials stage.

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  22.   22. Posted By: Jordan
        Date: November 7th, 2011 @ 11:56 pm 

    Wow, he was lucky to survive his accident and man is he making the most of it! Huge respect, well done!

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  23.   23. Posted By: Ry
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 1:12 am 

    Amazing guy. He never felt sorry for himself after his truly awful accident, just got on with his life. Inspiring.

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  24.   24. Posted By: kim willcox
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 1:25 am 

    congratulations alex im a fellow racer ametuer scca love u

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  25.   25. Posted By: Ross
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 2:47 am 

    Amazing man. A true hero.

    His move at the cork screw on the last lap at Laguna Seca along with Sato’s overtake of Alonso are still my fav overtakes.

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  26.   26. Posted By: Liam in Sydney
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 3:00 am 

    A truly remarkable man with a character of the highest order. This is an inspirational story of the hardest road that very few people travel. Alex, you are a champion, in any sense of the word. My respect!!

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  27.   27. Posted By: Mike Taberner
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 3:14 am 

    Alex is truly inspirational! His book is a great read into this champion. My favourite memory was after his crash when he showed up at the Toronto Indy to wave the start flag. Everyone was cheering until he got to the ladder up to the flagstand….silence as he paused and then thunderous applause as he climbed the ladder. Alex of course climbed back down a few times and then back up for the checkered flag.

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  28.   28. Posted By: Schumi Iceman
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 6:39 am 

    Great stuff, Alex.

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  29.   29. Posted By: JohnBt
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 7:09 am 

    The spirit of people has always been inspiring. My respect goes to Alessandro Zanardi.

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  30.   30. Posted By: Allan
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 7:43 am 

    Have always been a big fan. The accident was so terrible, but how he has THRIVED in his life since is a true inspiration!

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  31.   31. Posted By: Lee R
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 7:46 am 

    Motorsport is also coming to terms with the loss of Marco as well as Dan.

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  32.   32. Posted By: Forzaminardi
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 10:11 am 

    Zanardi is the true definition of ‘hero’. What a man.

    I was lucky enough to very briefly meet him at Imola ’99 after he dumped the Williams in qualifying. In a snatched conversation of a few seconds, with humour and his 100% undistilled charisma, he secured me as a fan. A great driver, a great man, and a legendary sportsman.

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  33.   33. Posted By: gudien
        Date: November 8th, 2011 @ 9:14 pm 

    I remember sitting across from the pits at Elkart Lake watching Alex and Chip Ganassi deep in discussion immediately before announcing his move back to F-1. It was obvious for all to see that Ganassi did not want to lose his #1 driver. Meanwhile, standing behind them at a short distance was Alex’s friend Jimmy Vasser offering his friend encouragement.

    Alex Zanardi, the ultimate Indy Car fan favorite.

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  34.   34. Posted By: JC Agoglia
        Date: November 9th, 2011 @ 3:00 am 

    I agree, he was my Indycar hero, followed by JPM.

    James, what was the reason for a subpar F1 season after such a brilliant Indycar career?

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    KenC Reply:

    That Williams with the Stuportech engine was an understeering pig. Ralf could drive it that way, but not Alex. The sport with its grooved tires and lithium caliper brakes had passed Alex’s skill set by, which was an intelligent brake foot. In an older era he would have been a huge star.

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  35.   35. Posted By: Paul J
        Date: November 10th, 2011 @ 12:01 am 

    An amazing feat from an amazing man. An inspiration to us all.

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  36.   36. Posted By: Zhenya
        Date: November 12th, 2011 @ 7:47 am 

    An amazing racer. A real ambassador of the BEST.

    [Reply]

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