Sport

Former F1 driving force and Italian Paralympic racer Alex Zanardi in strong situation after horror crash

Former F1 driver who became a paralympic wheelchair racer is in serious but stable condition following hand-bike crash – 20 years after car accident that left him paralysed

  • Former F1 competitor Alex Zanardi was involved in a horrific crash in Tuscany 
  • The Italian Paralympic champion was hit by a truck during a national race 
  • Zanardi was in a medically induced coma following surgery on Friday night
  • The former F1 driver lost both his legs in a German IndyCar race in 2001

Former Formula One driver and paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi remained in a serious but stable condition on Sunday after sustaining severe head injuries following a crash on his handbike in Italy.

Zanardi, 53, was in a medically induced coma following surgery on Friday night at the Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena. He suffered facial and cranial trauma, doctors said.

‘Zanardi spent the night in conditions of cardio-respiratory and metabolic stability. Organ functions are adequate,’ the hospital announced in a statement Sunday morning.

Alex Zanardi remained in a serious but stable condition on Sunday after a hand-bike crash

‘The ongoing neuromonitoring has shown some stability but this data must be taken with caution because the neurological picture remains serious,’ the hospital statement concluded. 

‘The current conditions of general stability still do not allow to exclude the possibility of adverse events and, therefore, the patient remains in a reserved prognosis.’ 

Friday’s accident came when the Italian lost control of his handbike during a national race for Paralympic athletes in the Italian town of Pienza. 

Zanardi veered into oncoming traffic before being hit by a large truck which smashed his face.

The 53-year-old Zanardi won two championships in CART in the United States before a brief move to Formula One. 

He returned to America and was racing in Germany in a CART event in 2001 when both of his legs were severed in a horrific accident the weekend after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Friday's accident came when the Italian lost control of his handbike during a national race for Paralympic athletes in the Italian town of Pienza

Friday’s accident came when the Italian lost control of his handbike during a national race for Paralympic athletes in the Italian town of Pienza 

During his recovery, Zanardi designed his own prosthetics and learned to walk again.

He then turned his attention to hand cycling and developed into one of the most accomplished athletes in the world. 

He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Prosecutors in Siena opened a criminal investigation into the accident and the race’s organization – specifically whether enough safety precautions were taken.

About 10 disabled riders were escorted by one police vehicle, local reports said.

Zanardi was racing in Germany in a CART event in 2001 when both of his legs were severed in a accident the weekend after the September 11 terrorist attacks

Zanardi was racing in Germany in a CART event in 2001 when both of his legs were severed in a accident the weekend after the September 11 terrorist attacks

Witnesses have said that the accident occurred on a downhill section just before a curve in the road. 

Zanardi apparently lost control and veered into the oncoming lane. The truck apparently tried to swerve out of the way but couldn’t avoid the crash.

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The truck driver, who was placed under investigation, tested negative for alcohol and drugs.

‘The truck didn’t make a mistake. Alex made the mistake,’ said national team coach Mario Valentini, who was following the race.

The race was part of a two-week relay event throughout Italy to promote the country’s revival after the coronavirus pandemic. 

During his recovery, Zanardi designed his own prosthetics and learned to walk again

During his recovery, Zanardi designed his own prosthetics and learned to walk again

It was created by an association led by Zanardi with an aim of bringing more Italians to the Paralympics. 

The 1978 F1 world champion Mario Andretti tweeted: ‘I am so frightened about Alex I’m holding my breath.’

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tweeted: ‘You have never given up and with your extraordinary fortitude you have overcome a thousand difficulties.

‘Come on Alex Zanardi, don’t give up. All of Italy is fighting with you.’

The Williams F1 team said: ‘Alex is one of life’s truly inspirational people and as we all know, a fighter through and through.’

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