Alex Zanardi seriously injured in handbike accident

ROME — Race car driver-turned-Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi was seriously injured again in a road accident Friday.

Zanardi was transported by helicopter to the Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena following an accident near the Tuscan town of Pienza during a national race for Paralympic athletes on handbikes, police told The Associated Press.

A Carabinieri police official in Montepulciano said the accident involved a « heavy vehicle » and that he believed Zanardi was still alive. The official did not give his name, as per local custom.

The accident occurred when Zanardi was descending a hill, lost control and veered into oncoming traffic where he was hit by a truck, the Gazzetta dello Sport reported.

The Italian Olympic and Paralympic Committees had no immediate comment.

Zanardi won four gold medals in handbike at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics.

The 53-year-old Zanardi lost both of his legs following a horrific crash during a 2001 CART race in Germany.

At the time, Zanardi was a two-time CART champion who had recently returned from a second stint in Formula One and had plowed through the field to lead laps for the first time since he left the series after his 1998 title. The crash occurred when Zanardi spun his car after a pit stop and was hit by another driver. Both legs were severed at impact.

Zanardi was an established racing star before his accident, and his accomplishments since transcend sports. An inspirational figure with an indomitable spirit, he designed his own prosthetics — he jokes he made himself taller — and learned to walk again. Then he returned to racing in touring cars. After that came hand cycling, a class victory in the New York City Marathon and Paralympic glory.

In January, Zanardi competed in the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race, driving in a race for the first time without prosthetics. He used a special steering wheel designed for him by BMW that allowed him to drive with hand levers.


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