It’s been over a year and a half since Alex Zanardi was involved in a handcycling accident in Italy, but the legendary racing car driver is finally back at home to continue his recuperation and recovery. Zanardi has been an inspiration to millions of people around the world for his ability to recover and overcome severe adversity.
After losing both legs in a horrific CART (now IndyCar) wreck in Germany in 2001, Zanardi was back racing less than two years after the accident for BMW, using prosthetic legs and hand controls. He raced for BMW in the European and World Touring Car Championships from 2003–2009 and has also competed most recently in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2019 in the M8 GTE.
Zanardi has also been extremely successful in competitive handcycling, with four Paralympic gold medals. It was in a handcycling race in Tuscany, Italy where Zanardi had the accident that put him in the hospital in June 2020, when he lost control of his bike and had a collision with a truck that was in the other lane. He underwent three hours of emergency neurological surgery for facial and head injuries and has been in the recovery process since then.
After months in hospitals and clinics, the 55-year-old Zanardi is finally back home in Italy with his family. “The recovery continues to be a long process,” said his wife, Daniela. “The rehabilitation program led by doctors, physiotherapists, neuropsychologists and speech therapists has enabled steady progress. Of course, setbacks are there and can still occur. Sometimes you also have to make two steps back in order to make one step forward. But Alex proves again and again that he is a real fighter.”
Zanardi continues to work through his recovery process at home. “After the long time in hospital it is important for him to be back with his family and in his familiar environment,” Daniela continued. “You also have to consider that, due to the Corona situation, Alex had only people with face masks and in protective equipment around him for one and a half years. During the week, a therapist works with him and they do physical, neurological and logopedical exercises. In regards of his physical condition, there is a lot of progress. Alex has more and more strength in the arms, that has increased a lot. And, other than in hospital where he was in bed a lot, Alex now spends most of the day in the wheelchair with us.”
Will we ever see Zanardi in a race car or competing in a handcycle race again? Perhaps not, but if there’s anyone that can do it, it’s Zanardi. Even if he never does enter a competitive race again, he’s no less an inspiration for his resilience and fighting spirit.—David Haueter
[Photo courtesy BMW AG.]