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Is there no end to Zanardi’s sporting spirit?
Alex Zanardi
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Oct 2012   |  11:39 am GMT  |  41 comments

Fresh from his Paralympic gold medal success in London, former F1 driver Alex Zanardi, who lost his legs in an IndyCar accident in 2001, showed once again how indomitable his sporting spirit is by helping a fellow competitor to complete the Venice Marathon at the weekend.

His friend Eric Fontanari, who is also a wheelchair competitor, had wanted to take part in the Venice event, but wasn’t sure to be able to complete the full 26 mile course.

So, as you can see from this video, Zanardi set aside a chance of a medal and focussed his efforts on helping his friend, pushing him for some of the way to the finish.

A remarkable man.

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  1. Andrew S says:

    There isnt really anything you can add to that with words.

  2. rey cruz says:

    what a great guy

  3. Alectoris82 says:

    Questo è un Uomo con la “U” maiuscola. This is a Man with capital “M”.

    1. Basil says:

      Indeed! Very inspirational!

  4. Mike says:

    Classy man.

  5. DMyers says:

    That brought a wee tear to my eye. What an inspirational man.

    1. DanWilliams from Aust says:


  6. Josiah says:

    What a legend!

  7. Gemma says:

    A True Sporting Hero!!

  8. JCA says:

    James, any news on his DTM aspirations?

  9. Nic Maennling says:

    It reminded me of a story I read as a boy about Fangio, in the late 1940s I believe, pushing his mate Luigi Fagioli across the finish line. It was late in Fagioli’s career. Readers may have more information.

    Alex Zanardi is indomitable !

    1. Ed H says:

      According to Gerald Donaldson’s biography of Fangio, the event you mention Nic happened in 1950:

      “Fangio and Fagioli represented Alfa Romeo in the grand prix of Pescara, one of the great Italian races, which took place on one of the longest circuits in europe…Juan won the 250-mile race, even though it had been previously agreed that Fagioli, who’d been born near Ancona, should be victorious in his home race. Encouraged by 250,000 spectators, Fagioli was in fact leading until the very last lap when his Alfetta’s front suspension collapsed and the car juddered to a halt. Juan pulled up alongside and urged him to try to make it to the finish line. Besides wishing to honour their pre-race agreement, Juan felt that because he had been the unluckiest of the Three F’s (Fangio, Fagioli and Farina) in the races so far, Fagioli should be given every chance to win. They set off again, with Juan tucked in behind, waving encouragement, but their progress was painfully slow, the leading Alfetta’s right front wheel rubbing against the bodywork. As they neared the finish line, Fagioli became greatly animated, shouting and pointing behind to the fast-approaching Talbot driven by Louis Rosier and waving Fangio onwards. Juan accelerated away and won. The gallant Fagioli was passed by Rosier just 500 feet from the finish line.”

      As I understand it Fangio was not able to actually “push” Fagioli across the line. but like Alex he showed great sportsmanship and strength of character in helping him along. Though of course Juan ultimately won the race so the gesture was not completely selfless, at least Fagioli finished 3rd rather than retiring so close to the end.

      1. Nic Maennling says:

        I am truly grateful for your comprehensive reply. Thank you.

  10. Andrew Carter says:

    A remarkable man indeed.

    1. Sebee says:

      Zanardi really is the instruction manual for “What to do when life gives you a second chance.”

  11. mick symes says:

    there are many good sportsman but great sportsman are much rarer, Alex has often shown hes a winner but this action shows that he is a great sportsman as well bravo

  12. Gerard says:

    Zanardi in English means ” man who walks tall ”
    What a great bloke !!

    1. Liam in Sydney says:

      Yep, someone should just put his picture underneath the caption of ‘Zanardi’ in the English dictionary with the above definition. That would be more than fitting.

      A truly amazing human being.

  13. W Johnson says:

    Thank you for sharing this news.

  14. F1-Insider says:

    James, it’s be a great idea if you could add a like/dislike (green/red?) feature to the many comments made on your informative site.
    Doing this would provide an instant indication as to the views of your readers on any given thread you’d posted, it’s also likely get those that read your site but do not comment registering a view.

    On this particular thread I agree with all those that in essence say ‘TOP MAN’ as he surely is, just goes to show life’s what one makes it God forbid any of your readers were to loose their legs or similar.

  15. IAKirk says:

    He really is a great guy, hope he is at least considered for BBC Overseas Sports Personality this year. Bravo Alex!

  16. Troy Brisby says:

    As a person who has broken my back and sustained nerve damage, I can admit I don’t have the strength of character that Zanardi has. Truly a great athlete and more importantly a great person!

  17. Sebee says:

    I hope I get to shake this man’s hand one day.
    May turn into a hug!

  18. Peter says:

    Surely to god this man should be awarded the BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year Award at this years ceremony?

  19. Elie says:

    What an inspiration. Just shows what makes a great man is his heart.

  20. Tom Penney says:

    Alex is truly a remarkable man.

  21. JohnBt says:


  22. Matt W says:

    A truly remarkable achievement. His recovery is inspiring. Wayne Rainey is another injured racer who has gone on to continue his great racing spirit.

    James, shouldn’t he be credited with being a former Indycar (Champ Car) champion rather than just “former F1 driver”. I won’t wish to moan as its a great piece to put on your blog but it just feels a bit of a shame not to acknowledge just how good he really was over the pond.

    1. James Allen says:

      True, but this is an F1 site

  23. Rich C says:

    There just are no words in the English language big enough to describe this man.

  24. Alberto Martínez says:

    Speechless! Alex Zanardi is an inspiration for me … What a man!

  25. Dave Aston says:

    Great post, James Allen.

    When he had the accident, I felt it was especially poignant, as I’d noticed in any interviews at the height of his career in the US that he was very open about expressing how great his life was, and how lucky he’d been.

    Definitely an unusually modest guy for a top level sportsman. And, since then, he just keeps blowing our minds! (Olympic gold, high profile marathons… and didn’t he win a WTCC round for BMW too?)

    It’s easy to forget how many people don’t cope with these types of injury, but no doubt he is a great example. His charisma and approach kind of remind me of Neil Armstrong; it’s like he genuinely doesn’t see what the fuss is about!

    1. Andrew Carter says:

      He won two or three WTCC races and almost certainly would have won more if Augusto Farfus hadn’t fired him off the road from the lead on more than one occasion, twice Imola if I remember correctly.

  26. Randy Torres says:

    GRANDE Zinardi!

  27. Morten says:

    He’s my hero, too. Him and Joey Dunlop. Too big words, some men.

  28. Tim says:

    A world-class, Class Act. Alex Zanardi IS a hero. God bless you Mr. Zanardi.
    James, any chance of a podcast?


  29. Geoff Norman says:

    When Alex was interviewed on Radio 5 a few years ago he was asked how he survived the blood loss that followed his accident. I sent the message to the programme “Perche hai un cuore grande ed uno spirito generoso”, which he was obviously moved by, and I reiterate that today.

  30. Kenji says:

    That is true sportsmanship there.

    max respect Alex.

  31. Kenji says:

    That is true sportsmanship there.

    max respect Alex.


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