Inspirational Zanardi wins hand-cycling gold
10:00am Thursday 6th September 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
Motor-racing star Alex Zanardi lifted his bike in one mighty hand in celebration of his first Brands Hatch victory as the Italian became Paralympic champion yesterday.
The 45-year-old Italian made 45 appearances in Formula One following his debut in 1993 and competed at Brands Hatch when racing in F3000 early in his career, placing second, and then in the World Touring Car Championship later, placing third.
His more recent appearances in Kent came after he was critically injured in the American Memorial 500 Cart event in Germany on September 16, 2001. A 200mph accident dissected his car and lost both his legs.
As well as competing in top-level motorsport since the accident, Zanardi has made a successful transition to hand-cycling, culminating in his London 2012 Games triumph today.
He won the 16-kilometre men's H4 time-trial at Brands Hatch before lifting his bike above his head in celebration of a success which included the promise of a ride in one of motorsport's most fabled events.
He said: "I'm Alex Zanardi, I always have to come up with something at the end of a race - I have a bit of a big head.
"My great friend Jimmy Vasser called me last night and said if you win a gold medal I'm going to put you in a car for the Indy 500, so I will have to call him back tonight.
"I only collected a second place, a third-placed finish and to win I had to come back with a hand-cycle. It's an amazing feeling.
"I'm really, really happy for the result and I knew that this moment was going to bring a little bit of sadness as well.
"This is almost the last day of a great adventure and from Monday I will have to find something different, otherwise life will become a little boring.
"It's at the top of the scale with many other great moments I've been lucky enough to live."
Zanardi clocked 24 minutes 50 seconds but had to watch his rivals finish before being certain of gold ahead of Germany's Norbert Mosandl (25mins 17secs) and Oscar Sanchez of the United States (25:35).
"That was the toughest moment; it was very hard to wait," Zanardi added.
"I was a little bit emotional, because the prize was very high. I knew I could only do my best and I had to be happy."
Zanardi played down his personal feat.
"Anybody can be an inspiration for each other," he said.