There aren’t many sportsmen whose careers stretch into their late 40s, let alone men like Alessandro Zanardi who spent much of his career in open wheel racing leagues like Formula One.

Zanardi has all the traits of an F1 driver, including the ability to take intuitive risks. In the last race of the American CART series, Zanardi thrilled crowds with a perfectly judged overtaking move at the Corkscrew corner at Laguna Seca. The winning manoeuvre was later banned for being too risky.

Italian F1 driver Alex Zanardi who lost his both legs in an accident 15 September 2001 during a kart championships in Germany leaves the pits during a BMW practice session at the racetrack Ricardo Tormo in Cheste near Valencia 25 November 2006., Image: 19613247, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Profimedia, AFP
Alex Zanardi during a kart championships in Germany at the racetrack Ricardo Tormo in Cheste near Valencia.

Then in September 2001, at the Euro Speedway Lausitz, Zanardi was involved in a violent collision while leading the race. He had started at the back of the grid and fought his way to the front of the field in a monumental effort typical for his fighting spirit, but the freak accident left his life in imbalance.

Losing both your legs and nearly 75% of your blood is enough to destroy anyone’s competitive ambitions but Zanardis’ competitive nature burned too fiercely to be put out. Having fostered an interest in the sport of handcycling, Zanardi came fourth in the 2007 New York Marathon handcycling classification – after only a month of training.

Sep 15, 2016 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Alessandro Zanardi ITA (left) competes in the Men's Cycling Road Race H5 at Pontal. The Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday 15th September 2016. ., Image: 301670311, License: Rights-managed, Restrictions: , Model Release: no, Credit line: Profimedia, Zuma Press - News
Alessandro competes in the Men’s Cycling Road Race H5 at Pontal. The Paralympic Games, Rio de Janeiro, Thursday 15th September 2016.

Zanardi is still honoured by the world of motor-racing some 15 years after this tragic accident – because far from disappearing into obscurity, Zanardi continues to inspire the sporting world, having added a third Paralympic Gold medal in handcycling this September. Mr. Zanardi, you’re an inspiration to us all.