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Paralympics: Former F1 driver Zanardi enjoys golden day

Last updated on: September 6, 2012 12:03 IST

Paralympics: Former F1 driver Zanardi enjoys golden day

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Former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi, who lost his legs after a horrific crash in 2001, enjoyed a golden finale to his "magical adventure" by winning the Paralympic men's individual H4 handcycling time trial on Wednesday.

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At the Brands Hatch circuit, former hosts of the British Formula One grand prix, the 45-year-old Italian blitzed to gold over the 16-km course in 24 minutes, 50.22 seconds.

Zanardi finished more than 27 seconds ahead of German Norbert Mosandl, with American Oscar Sanchez taking bronze.


Image: Alessandro Zanardi of Italy celebrates
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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'I worked very hard to get here'

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"This is a great accomplishment, one of the greatest of my life," Zanardi said. "I worked very hard to get here. It was great to live such an experience at 45."

Zanardi had both legs amputated above the knee after crashing in the Champ Car series in 2001.

The Italian was leading a race at Germany's Lausitz track when he lost control of his red Reynard-Honda in the final laps and Canadian driver Alex Tagliani ran into him at more than 350 kph (220 mph).

Earning praise for his recovery, he returned to racing only a year and a half after the crash and continued in the World Touring Car championships until 2009, by which time he had taken up handcycling.


Image: Alessandro Zanardi of Italy
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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'When you are 40, you appreciate what you do every day'

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"Three years ago I stopped motor racing, at age 42," he said.

"It seemed a stupid thing to do to drop everything. It was against all odds. But it's not the first crazy thing I did in life. In the end I was right.

"You should not chase pipedreams, but if you have a horizon to look into, happiness is just around the corner."

Zanardi was a former track record holder at Brands Hatch in the Formula 3000 category but admitted the circuit was hillier than he remembered.

"With an engine pushing me, I didn't realise it was so hilly. It was very hard, but if I had to design a course, this is what I would have done. It is beautiful, hard ... it suits my charcteristics of an old man," he said.

"When you are 40, you appreciate what you do every day. I enjoyed every day of training. I've had a magical adventure and this is a fantastic conclusion."

All the Paralympic road cycling events will take place at Brands Hatch, Kent, 20 miles south east of the Olympic Stadium.

It began as a grass track for cycle racing in 1928. It staged the British F1 Grand Prix for the first time in 1976 and the last time in 1986.


Image: Alessandro Zanardi
Photographs: Hannah Johnston/Getty Images

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