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Alex Zanardi


Sat 09 February, 2019


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Olympic handbike

Alessandro "Alex" Zanardi was born in Bologna on October 23rd, 1966 son of Dino and Anna Zanardi. Married to Daniela, he is Niccolò's father.

His car racing adventure began at the age of 14 when he makes his debut in Go-kart races.

From 1988 till 1990 he took part in the Italian F3 Championship. After several successes, in 1990 at the Le Mans circuit, in France, he won the single trial European Cup title.

In 1991 he moved on to the FIA F3000 championship. He won his debut race and finished the season in second place. The spotlight is now on him: he is the rookie of the moment. Eddie Jordan, owner of the Jordan racing team, wants him on his team to compete in the last three GPs of the F1 world championship. Unfortunately, things do not go as expected and in 1992 he is appointed as a test driver at Benetton, led by Flavio Briatore. Then the comeback: Minardi asks him to drive 3 GPs to replace an injured Christian Fittipaldi.

In 1993 he is signed by Lotus, where he will stay till 1995. At his second race, in Brazil, he ended up a precious sixth place earning his first points in the world championship. In spite of high expectations, this will remain his best placement in the Formula One. That same year he took part to the English GT2, winning at Silverstone, England.

In 1996 his great opportunity: the Chip Ganassi team wants him in the American IndyCar series, that will be later renamed CART World Championship Series. After a humble season start, he won his first race in Portland, Oregon. This is the beginning of his comeback in the Championship, that took him to conquer the third place. Particularly memorable is the spectacular overtaking at the Laguna Seca circuit, in California, at the Corkscrew turn, named The Pass by American fans. Even today very clicked online.

In 1997 and 1998 he won the World title, breaking multiple records: points earned in a season, successes / participations ratio and consecutive pole positions.

In 1999 he returned to the F1 championship with Williams. Again things do not go as expected and in 2000 he took a sabbatical before returning to the Cart Series in 2001.

It's September 15th, 2001. The German circuit of Lausitzring seems to be a good one to climb once again onto winner's podium. But, at 13 laps from the finish line, fate has different plans for him. A terrible accident takes his legs and makes him risk his life. When he reached the Umfallkrankenhaus Hospital in Berlin, there’s only one liter of blood left in his veins and his heart had already been revived seven times during the helicopter transport. Alex, however, does not give up. He is not the type. Thanks to an extraordinary medical team, Alex survives the first of the 16 surgeries he will undergo during the 45 days of hospitalization.

In 2003, one year and a half after this turning point, he returned to the Lausitzring circuit and completed the 13 missing laps. In Monza he raced in the last run of the ETCC European Championship aboard a BMW 320i specially designed for him. Meanwhile, he worked on his biography, “Però, Zanardi da Castelmaggiore!” (Bancarella Sport 2003 Prize), followed, in 2006, by “Alex guarda il cielo” written together with his old friend, Claudio Costa.

Between 2004 and 2009 he began a new sporting adventure with touring cars and BMW, that led him to try his hand in the WTCC Championship. He became the first disabled athlete to win, in a world level competition, against able-bodied professionals.

Challenges for Alex were not at the end. In 2007 he discovered the hand bike and signs up to the New York Marathon achieving the fourth place. This new sport intrigued him so much that he ended up winning the "grand slam" of Italian marathons: Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Padua, Treviso.

In 2012 he participated to the Paralympics in London. He drapes around his neck two individual gold medals, in the chrono race and in the road race, and a silver medal in the team relay.

In 2013 he improved himself. At the World Championships in Baie-Comeau, Canada, he won the world title in the chrono race, in the road race and triumphed in the team event together with Vittorio Podestà and Luca Mazzone.

In 2014 he became BMW world ambassador and again competes as a racecar driver in the Blancpain GT Sprint Championship with the official BMW Z4 GT3.

His handcycling activity continues. He wins the World Cup, then the World Champion title in the chrono race and in the team relay in Greenville, United States.

In October of that same year he made his triathlon debut at the most exhausting race of this discipline: the Ironman World Championship Final in Kona, Hawaii. Alex, called, like all other finalists, to swim for 4 km, push his hand bike for 180 km in the cycling section and to complete the 42.195 m marathon with the Olympic wheelchair, once again amazed the world: he completed the race in 9h 47 '14 '', ranking 273th among over 2000 participants, most of able-bodied.

In 2015 he won three gold medals at the World Championships in Nottwil, Switzerland, winning the chrono race, the road race and the team relay race.

2016 is yet another year full of victories. First he takes part to the World Championships in Ostend, where he wins two golds (the road race and the relay race), but fails to get the third one, in the chrono race. He thereby realizes how competitive his opponents are, particularly Jensen Plat. He then flew to the Rio Paralympics. This will be a success. At the age of 50, thanks to the hard work carried out under the guidance of his personal trainer Francesco Chiappero, and all the Enervit team staff, Alex wins the chrono race trial and the team relay (again with Vittorio Podestà and Luca Mazzone) and wins the silver in the road race. He is a legend! The sporting world worships him.

“Con il cuore oltre l’ostacolo”

In 2005, along with the orthopedic technicians / friends of the RTM, the orthopedic center where Alex carried out part of his rehabilitation, and with Doctor Claudio Marcello Costa, founder of the Mobile Clinic, he established Bimbingamba (www.bimbingamba.com), a solidarity project. Fully founded by Alessandro’s fundraising and with the precious work done at RTM, the Association aims to create prostheses for those children who, for whatever reasons, can’t access this precious aid. More than 100 children have "recovered" their legs so far. The next step? Bimbingamba - Sport to introduce the amputee children or those affected by spinal injuries to hand biking.

In 2006 he dubs Guido, in the amination movie “Cars, roaring engines”. And again in 2011, in its sequel Cars 2. In 2008 he is the voice over for the cartoon series “Roary the Racing Car”, broadcasted by Rai Gulp.

In the two-year period between 2010 and 2011, on Rai3, he hosts “E se domani”, a show about science and new technologies. The following year, on the same network, he entered into Italians households with another show “sfide” a narration of the stories of the greatest sport champions.

Since the end of 2013 he sits on the Vodafone Italia Foundation Scientific Committee, dedicated to activities of social service and solidarity in favor of the collectivity, especially those who live the most disadvantaged situations.