Friday, 16 September 2016

A true inspiration

I’m writing this just as the 2016 Rio Paralympics is coming to an end. I’ve been so busy recently that I sadly haven’t seen much of it first hand, so I have had to keep up to speed with things via the various sport news apps I have on my phone.

The inspiring stories from these amazing athletes are never ending. I’m probably biased due to my love of motorsport - as you’ll all probably have guessed by now – but the story coming from across the Atlantic regarding Alex Zinardi has blown me away. Perhaps though it’s the general public’s reaction to his achievements that has made me realise what a true hero figure he actually is.

By way of a background, if you don’t know his story, here’s a brief run down.His F1 career started with Jordan in 1991, ending in 1994 after the Lotus team folded. After a brief stint driving in sportscars, he joined the US-based CART series. He won the championship in 1997 and 1998 before switching back to F1 for a year with Williams. He eventually returned to CART.

On September 15th 2001, at a race that was held as a ‘memorial’ to the terrorist attacks in the USA 4 days earlier, he was involved in an accident at the CART race at the EuroSpeedway Lausitz in Germany. Gravely injured, his legs were amputated - one at and one above the knee. Having been so close to death, it must have been so easy to give up. But that’s not the Zinardi way.

He began a rapid, tough rehabilitation. He even designed his own legs. With hand controls, he did ceremonial laps in a CART machine just two years after his accident and his time would have put him fifth of the grid in the race that same race. This inspired him to make a racing return in touring cars, winning races from 2005-2009 before he retired. At the same time, he started handcycling, for which he is now a legend.  

His emotional reaction to the gold medal in the Men’s Time Trial T5 at the Rio Paralympics led to an amazing reaction across Social Media and it was clear it impacted a lot of people. One of my favourite quotes given after this latest Paralympic triumph, he said: “Day by day I managed to regain control and strength, regain some confidence and concentrate on different things and here I am now.”
Of all the Social Media comments I’ve seen, this one had the most impact - from Channel4's 'The Last Leg' – and I don’t think I’m the only one!
Zinardi certainly has inspired me over the years. When you’ve been through what he has and he’s so positive, it teaches us all a bit of lesson.