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Ironman world champion Alex Zanardi in medically induced coma after cycling crash

Italian race car driver in critical condition after handcycle crash during a relay race in Italy.

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi has been inspiring the world ever since he lost both legs in a horrific 320 km/hour car accident in 2001. After both legs were amputated, the inspirational Italian returned to car racing two years later and has also become one of the world’s premier handcyclists. He has gone on to take multiple gold medals at the Paralympics, won numerous marathon titles and has also taken the handcycle division at the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Last September Zanardi set a new handcycle record for the full distance, finishing Ironman Emilia-Romagna in 8:26, which put him fifth overall in the race.

Zanardi sustained severe head injuries in a crash while competing in a relay race in Tuscany, Italy yesterday.

“According to multiple reports, he crossed the white line into the path of an oncoming truck, which was unable to avoid him,” CNN reported.

Zanardi was airlifted to Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Sienna, Italy, where he had a “delicate neurosurgical intervention” according to a statement from the hospital – he remains “intubated and supported by artificial ventilation while the neurological picture remains serious.”

Zanardi raced in Formula One from 1991 to 1994 and also in 1999. He won the CART championship in 1997 and 1998. In 2001 he returned to the CART series, but was in a major crash in Germany in September of that year.

Two years after his accident he was back racing again, competing for BMW in the European Touring Car Championship. In addition to car racing, he also competed in handcycling, winning four golds and two silver medals at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also won 12 world championship handcycle titles, and took the handcycle division at the New York City Marathon and the Ironman World Championship.

Thanks to his outgoing personality and enthusiasm, Zanardi is always one of the most popular media interviews in Kona when he attends the event and he remains a popular figure in the motor sports world as well.