Last weekend news came through that former successful race driver and handcycling champion Alex Zanardi had been critically injured while competing in an Italian national road race for Paralympic athletes.
It was reported that Zanardi was travelling downhill on a state highway when he lost control of his handcycle and veered into an oncoming truck.
He suffered critical head injuries and as at Friday was still in an induced coma following surgery.
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At this stage it's too early to know what the long term effects will be, but his surgeon has expressed grave concerns and went so far as to say he may not come out of it.
This is the second time the now 53-year-old Zanardi has faced death while competing in a sport he was so passionate about and it seems incredibly cruel that one person could suffer so much.
In 2001 Zanardi was involved in one of the most horrific crashes ever witnessed in the sport while competing in a Championship Auto Race (CART) at Lausitzring in Germany.
My thoughts are with Alex Zanardi tonight. He has defied the odds his whole life, always done the seemingly impossible. When we raced against each other I realised there was never a point in any race that in his mind he was beaten.— Dario Franchitti (@dariofranchitti) June 19, 2020
I’m praying for another Zanardi miracle 💪🏼💔
Zanardi lost control of his open wheel car as he was blending back onto the track after a pit stop and was T boned just behind the front wheel by Alex Tagliani who was travelling at well over 240 kph.
The crash tore off the front section of Zanardi's car causing one leg to be severed at the thigh and the other at the knee and Zanardi losing 75 per cent of his blood volume.
Only an amazing effort by medical professionals at the track kept him alive and after further surgery and a very long rehabilitation Zanardi was fitted with prosthetic legs and commenced an intensive physio program.
Not content with the commercially available items, Zanardi then designed and built his own custom legs to establish the most efficient ones to use for a return to racing.
In 2003 Zanardi returned to racing in the Italian round of the European Touring Car Championship in a specially equipped BMW to finish seventh before a full-time return in 2004.
In 2005 Zanardi contested the Italian Super Touring championship in a 320si BMW and scored eight wins from twelve races to take out the title.
That same year ETCC became the World Touring car Championship and in August Zanardi won his first WTCC race and followed up with wins in 2006 in Istanbul and Brno in 2008 and 2009 before announcing his retirement from the championship.
In January last year Zanardi competed in the 24-hour sports car race at Daytona in a BMW M8 GTE that was fitted with a special steering wheel which allowed him to actuate the accelerator with his left hand and shift with his right hand.
Brakes were applied by a large handle with his right hand so it was a complex system that required maximum concentration to operate.
Together with team mates John Edwards, Jesse Krohn and Australia's Chas Mostert the team finished 32nd overall and ninth in class despite some issues.
In 2007 Zanardi decided to take up handcycling and after just four weeks of training he finished fourth in his division in the New York City Marathon.
In 2009 he won his division in the Venice marathon and then in 2010 he won the Rome City marathon and in 2011, at his fourth attempt, he won the New York City marathon.
2012 was a big year with a gold medal at the Paralympic Games in London, a second gold medal in the individual road race and then a silver medal in the mixed team relay.
Zanardi competed in the Ironman World Championship in 2014 finishing 272nd overall and 19th out of 247 in the 45-49 age group using the handbike for the cycling section and a wheelchair for the running section.
At the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro Zanardi won gold medals in the H5 category road cycling men's time trial and the mixed team relay and a silver medal in the road race.
In 2018 Zanardi smashed the ironman world record in a triathlon event in Italy with a time that would have placed him fifth overall in the competition.
In the beginning of his motorsport career, Zanardi came through the ranks of karting to circuit racing in Formula 3000 and then five years in Formula 1 with Jordan, Minardi, Lotus and Williams without notable success from 41 starts.
In 1996 he transitioned to the American CART championship for the highly credentialled Chip Ganassi team in a Reynard Honda, winning three races and six pole positions to finish third in the championship and named Rookie of the Year.
Zanardi won the championship in 1997 - winning five of the 17 races - and doubled up in 1998, winning seven of the 19 races and standing on the podium a remarkable 15 times.
The events of 2001 looked set to destroy any further active competition for Zanardi but his commitment, resilience, determination and sheer guts have proved to be the measure of a great champion and an inspiration to many.
Have a look in the dictionary for the meaning of those words and it would be appropriate to see a picture of Alex Zanardi.