Wednesday, January 02 2013
Alex Zanardi's gold medal heroics during the Road Cycling events at Brands Hatch in September 2012 have been voted as the number one moment of the 2012 Paralympic Games by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Zanardi secured two gold medals and one silver during the competition at Brands Hatch, and images of him raising his handcycle aloft in victory were beamed around the world to millions of viewers. The gold medals also marked Zanardi's fist victory at the Kent venue having claimed podium finishes in his previous motorsport career at the circuit in Formula 3000 (1991) and World Touring Cars (2008).
The former-F1 driver was critically injured in a CART crash in Germany in 2001 which saw him lose both legs at the knee. After making a recovery that defied medical logic, he returned to racing with prosthetic legs until 2009 when he announced he would be switching disciplines to handcycling with the intention of competing at the London 2012 Games.
After winning marathons in Rome, Venice and New York, Zanardi arrived at Brands Hatch as one of the favourites in the H4 handcycle category, and duly delivered with gold in the Individual Time Trial, before a last-gasp sprint finish to secure an emotional triumph in the Road Race two days later. A silver in the Mixed Team Relay followed to cap off a remarkable few days.
Speaking to the IPC, Zanardi said: "I was already a very popular person, but what happened in London took my popularity to a level that I could never have imagined. When in 2001 I had the great accident, at that point it certainly didn't seem to be one of the greatest opportunities of my life. But looking back over the last 11 years, I have to say that my accident has become one of the greatest opportunities of my life. It's at the top of the scale with many other great moments I've been lucky enough to live.
"Motorsport should be my speciality, not so much handcycling, but when they announced that the handcycling was going to take place at Brands Hatch it was one of the crucial things that emotionally made me think 'yeah this is my place'. In reality you know that the tarmac you're covering is the same for every one of us but it felt certainly more special."
To recap on all the highlights from the Paralympic Road Cycling at Brands Hatch click here to visit our minisite.