Former Jordan, Lotus and Williams Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi won gold in the 2012 Paralympic H4 handcycling race around the Brands Hatch circuit today (Wednesday).
The 45-year-old who lost both his legs in a horrific Champ Car crash at the Lausitzring back in 2001 dominated today‘s event. He had previously won silver in the 2011 World Road Para-Cycling Championships, that silver marked his first medal since moving into the sport following his race-winning spell in the WTCC with BMW.
Zanardi faced up against nine other competitors in the 16km H 4 Brands Hatch time trial, and at the halfway mark had built a lead of 14 seconds over Germany’s Norbert Mosandl.
He continued to pull away from the German over the final eight kilometres, eventually winning in a time of 24m50.22s. Mosandl finished second, just over 27 seconds behind Zanardi, with America’s Oscar Sanchez a further 18 seconds back in the bronze medal position.
“I have been lucky as usual,” Zanardi said. “I had a scary moment too, because in the back straight on the first lap the chain went down. I told myself ‘calm down, put it up, take your time, and go on’. So I did that. I surely lost seven or eight seconds there, but in the end it was enough anyway.”
“21 years ago I got a pole position but ended up second in the race at Brands Hatch. At this track I have scored a second, a third, but I was still missing the top step of the podium, so today we got that.”
“In two days we have the road race, on the day of my son Niccolo’s birthday, so I’ll try to win him a nice present, but frankly I’ll try to get that for me too, because in life you always need to be content with what you can do.”
“Today I have done the maximum, and it was enough to beat everyone. I’ll try that again on Friday, even if nothing can be taken for granted, then we’ll see. For sure I can’t live without sport. I’m a total addict for sports.”
“I’m a person who has had plenty from life and lady luck keeps on adding stuff, so I can only be thankful.”
Zanardi was a two-time C.A.R.T champion, winning what was then North America’s premier single-seaters for Target Ganassi Honda in 1997 and 1998. He then switched back to F1 with Williams in 1999 only to have his contract dissolved at the end of the season. He took a year away from racing in 2000 prior to returning to C.A.R.T. (or Champ Cars as it was referred to then) in 2001.
After recovering from his near-fatal crash in Germany in 2001, he returned to driving in the World Touring Car Championship with a specially modified BMW 320i.
He won four times during his touring car career, but in 2007 he became interested in hand cycling following a fourth place finish in the New York Marathon with only four weeks training before the event.
At the end of 2009 he left the WTCC and to focus his efforts on qualifying for Italy’s 2012 Paralympic team. He was victorious in the 2011 New York marathon as part of his preparations before the eventual confirmation of his place on the Italian Paralympic team.
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