Alessandro «Alex» Zanardi

visiting App-Tech

Date: 17. April 2018
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At the end of February, former Formula One driver Alex Zanardi (51) visited our Italian forging company App-Tech. Following a severe accident, he began a successful career in hand cycling and founded his own association to support handicapped children. We talked to this incredible man.

After being shown around the company, Alex talked for over two hours to App-Tech’s young and motivated team. His message was: Always be curious! We should always look around us and increase our knowledge. And: Life is full of surprises, sometimes good, sometimes very bad, but still we are very lucky compared to other people. When you fall over, stand up and walk again and you’ll feel even stronger than before.

When did you start your career as a racing driver in Formula One? What was especially fascinating about that for you? What did the racing sport mean to you?

Racing has been in my DNA since I was a child. I think you must either be born with this passion or you just don’t care about it. I kept this passion for motorbikes a secret from my parents, who wouldn’t agree to me doing it because it was dangerous. But when my father understood that I was seriously into it, he got me into karting even with the small budget available. Then all other series came along naturally thanks to all the positive achievements I managed on the circuits over the years.

We all know you suffered a terrible accident in which you lost both legs. Still you returned to the sport of motor racing and also took up hand cycling. What was your motivation to keep on going instead of giving up? Were there any moments where you had doubts? How did you handle them?

Life is a gift and sometimes puts you in difficult situations where you must fight and of course react. Some people find it difficult to do this, and some others instead, like myself, are perhaps born with a positive attitude and find it a bit “easier” to react. I say a bit because I also had my moments of sadness. But having family and good people around you is the best support and the best cure to heal body, mind and heart at those times. I have been lucky because I had this type of support all the time and it sure helped.

Tell us more about your successful hand cycling career. What was it like to change to this kind of sport and take part in the Paralympics? What are your next goals regarding sport? How long do you think you are going to do this sport?

After the accident, the main questions in my head were “how will I do this or that? and how can I go back to do what I was doing before?” The training with a special friend (my doctor) has been challenging and gave me new energy and a positive spirit because I understood that even without legs I was still able to do most of the things I was doing before. The hand bike is probably the natural evolution of the passion for motorcycles I had when I was younger.

The two Ironman competitions and then the London and Barcelona gold medals have been a challenge in my life. I wasn’t expecting that result, but those wins have been so incredible and heartbreaking that even now when I think about those moments I feel like I could climb a mountain.

The next step will be the Tokyo Paralympics in 2020. If my age and body will allow me, I will definitively try there again. Meanwhile I will race the Daytona 24hrs soon with my BMW Team. The 24 hours race is probably more difficult than the Ironman, but I couldn’t keep away from the smell of oil either, and as long as my body will let me do it, I will continue.

You also founded an association called “Bimbingamba” which makes artificial limbs for children who have undergone amputations and do not have access to proper healthcare. When and why did you found this organization?

After the severe accident in Germany I came back to Italy, and during one of my first visits to the hospital for the first artificial limb I saw a man crying. He told me he was there with his daughter, 4 years old, born without legs and I thought he was crying for that reason. But no, he was crying because the doctors were fitting her first ever artificial legs that day and then he realized that she needed shoes! That man ran out of the hospital to buy some and said that the greatest happiness he had felt in his life was at that moment when he went out and bought the very first pair of shoes for his little daughter. He told me to be positive because life can always bring you something good even when you think all is lost.

Even now when I think about that moment I feel so lucky to be able to be doing all this and live life as intensively as I can.

And this is what “Bimbingamba” is about: We help children coming from poor countries e.g. in Eastern Europe or Africa, from war areas, but also from the USA where, if you don’t have any medical insurance, you don’t get anything. Those children have lost one or more limbs as a result of accidents, illness or injuries from explosives or firearms in war zones. They should have a second chance because they deserve it. That’s why I founded “Bimbingamba”.

Do you have a special “philosophy of life” or something that always helps you keep going?

Intensively living this great gift that is life is the best thing you can do. Never lose sight of values such as honesty, passion, appreciation for others and love for whoever is around you, and never forget that being arrogant or thinking you know more than others is what will keep you behind everything and everyone.

Would you change anything in your life if you could?

I have had so much from this life so far that I can only say I must look ahead, there is nothing I would really change. I have been blessed in many ways and the best thing to do is to keep going, look ahead, be curious and never stop whatever you are doing if you love doing it.