Former F1 driver Alex Zanardi added another feat to his inspirational story at the weekend after he finished just outside the top 10% at the Ironman World Championship using just the power of his arms.
Zanardi lost both his legs and nearly his life in a horrific 2001 CART crash but has remained active in sport since, winning Paralympic gold at London 2012 in handcycling. The Italian, attempting his first-ever triathalon event, completed the famous Kailua-Kona event in Hawaii on October 11, 272nd out of 2,187 finishers.
The Kona event consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run. Zanardi utilised a wet vest which kept his body floating for the swimming portion, before he took to a self-developed handcycle to finish the biking segment. The Ironman was completed on an Olympic wheelchair, crossing the line in nine hours, 47 minutes and 14 seconds.
“It is fantastic and I will treasure this day in my heart for the rest of my life,” Zanardi said. “The last 300 meters were worth everything, they were worth being here for. I don’t know if everybody got cheered the same way, but when I passed down that narrow lane, I have never experienced anything like that. It was amazing. I was always close to crying. I am not an emotional guy for these types of things, but this was very special.”
Zanardi drove for Jordan, Minardi and Lotus between 1991 and 1994 before an unsuccessful comeback with Williams in 1999. He had greater success in America, winning the CART championship in 1997 and 1998. Since his accident he has competed in the World Touring Car Championship for BMW in a specially-modified car.