Alex Zinardi turns tragedy into opportunity

Former Formula 1 and Indy Car star Alex Zinardi chose not to let anything get in his way after he lost his legs in a car crash. TriathlonWorld.com catches up with the Italian after his third Ironman race in Austria.

| July 5, 2017 | PERSONALITY

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

It would have been easy for Alex Zinardi to give up. He was, at one time, one of the world’s greatest race car drivers – after racing in Formula 1 he turned to Indy Car racing, winning the CART Championship in 1997 and 1998. The guy can drive - he’s travelled at 418.6 km/ hour in a race car.

In 2001 he had a frightening crash. He was lucky to come out alive. He did lose both his legs, but that hardly slowed him down. Less than two years afterwards he was back in a race car, competing for BMW in the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

Zinardi would switch sports in 2010, taking up handcyling and representing Italy at the 2012 Paralympic Games, where he won gold in both the time trial and road race. He won another gold in Rio last year, too.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Zinardi did his first ever triathlon in 2014. He picked an easy one to start – the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. He was back a year later, too, and hopes to qualify for Kona again this year.

His athletic achievements aside, what makes Zinardi such an incredible athlete and champion is his attitude. The guy exudes positive energy. At the press conference at Ironman Austria last week he talked about how his accident had actually opened so many doors – the Olympics, Ironman and much more.

“Not that I was looking forward for something like this to happen to me, but whatever happens in life, if you are curious enough to search, you will always find out that whatever happens, there’s not only good or bad things involved,” he said in an interview after the press conference. “Being curious and searching deep enough to find the good stuff and use it as the leaning point to restart may turn that thing that happened into an opportunity. I think this theory stops to be a theory and becomes a fact when you look at what happened to me with my accident.”

Zinardi ripped through the Ironman Austria course last Sunday in a blazing 9:08:38. Cyclists would pass him on the steep hills on the beautiful bike course, but he would whip right by them on the long gradual descents and downhills. ("My new bike is very aerodynamic," he was quick to point out. The guy powering it seems prety strong, too.) Despite having to deal with a jammed run course - “I’ve never been in so much traffic before” (a bit scary coming from an Indy Car driver) – he still managed an impressive 2:18:16 marathon.

As good as the race was, Zinardi was quick to point out that it was hardly easy.

“With this temperature I thought it was going to be a walk in the park and it wasn’t,” he said after the race, commenting on the cool conditions. “Ironman is a race that is always capable of surprising you when you least expect it. It’s one of these things  that you hate it while you are doing it. You love it one second before the start and, not necessarily one second after, but certainly by the next day, you love it again.”

The next one is not going to be any easier – a lot hotter and a lot windier. With an attitude like Zinardi’s though, all that will hardly be a problem. It’ll be just another opportunity.