Today at the Games: He lost his legs in CART crash, now Alex Zanardi goes for cycling gold

He woke in hospital a week later to be told his heart had stopped seven times

Alex Zanardi is lucky to be alive. That may be a suggestion too readily trotted out around the Paralympics, yet how else do you describe a man who has had two car crashes, both of which should have ended his life?

Click HERE to view graphic

This afternoon at Brands Hatch – a venue Zanardi knows well from his motor-racing days – the Italian will make his Paralympic debut as a road cyclist, looking to win a medal in the H4 time trial. The H classification is hand cycling – Zanardi lost his legs in the second accident 11 years ago.

First things first, or rather first accidents first. In 1993, Zanardi was in his third season in Formula One. It had been a stop-start career but he had joined Lotus and registered his first Formula One points with a sixth in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Then came Spa. In practice for the Belgium Grand Prix, Zanardi crashed in an accident that imparted a G-force 18 times higher than a level that usually proves fatal.

It ended his season but no worse; eight years later it was a great deal worse. Having been replaced at Williams by a young Jenson Button, Zanardi had returned to CART racing when he was involved in a collision during a race in Brandenburg. He woke up in hospital a week later to be told his heart had stopped seven times, he had been given the last rites, and he had lost his legs. But he was alive.

Zanardi took up handcycling five years ago and although the 45-year-old will be one of the older racers in Brands Hatch – most of his main competitors are around half his age – he won a silver at the World Championships in Denmark last year. He also won the New York marathon last year and has sought to utilise some of the design technologies used in Formula One in constructing his racing chair.

Britain has two handcyclists in the Games. Rachel Morris will defend the time-trial title she won in Beijing today, while Karen Darke has won two silvers in this year's World Cup. It is a busy opening day for the home cyclists – there are 18 gold medals on offer – as they seek to transfer their successful stay in the Velodrome outdoors.

It is time-trial day, with the main British focus on Sarah Storey. Having won two gold medals in the Velodrome, Storey will seek to cement her status as one of Britain's outstanding Paralympians with two more at Brands Hatch. Her first attempt comes today in the C5 time trial, an event in which she has won the last two World Championships.

Jon-Allan Butterworth, who won two silver medals on the track, has his first road ride in a major event in the men's C5 and Mark Colbourne and Shaun McKeown go in the C1 and C3 respectively. Butterworth's prospects are difficult to judge, in view of his novice status – although, given British Cycling's record in talent spotting and Butterworth's ability, a medal would not be a surprise – and Colbourne and McKeown should make the podium. David Stone, a double gold medallist in Beijing, competes in the T1-2 time trial (T is the tricycle classification) and Lora Turnham, who missed out on a medal on the track, rides with her pilot Fiona Duncan in the B time trial having won World Cup gold.

Brit watch

Wheelchair Rugby

Great Britain will be looking to start their quest for a medal strongly in the mixed competition, although they face a tough first game against the US, the team ranked No 1 in the world, at the Basketball Arena. Britain are ranked fifth in the world in the event.

The match is scheduled to kick off at 2pm, with both remaining group games taking place during the following two days. The gold medal match takes place on Sunday.

Liz Johnson; Swimming

After winning the 100m breaststroke SB6 gold in Beijing under tough personal circumstances, Johnson will attempt to retain her title at 7.31pm, but the heats take place first today at 11.12am.

The 26-year-old will be challenged by her fellow Briton, Charlotte Henshaw, who will be hoping to make it a British one-two. In her favoured event, Johnson will hope to improve on her sixth-place finish in the 200m individual medley SM6.

Louise Watkin; Swimming

The 20-year-old, who was born in Stockholm, Sweden, but represents Great Britain after moving to the country in 1996, will be up against some fierce competition in the 50m women's freestyle final tonight at 8.30pm.

If she can progress from the morning's heats (11.40am), she will have to beat the imperious South African Natalie Du Toit, who has powered to victory in the event in the last two Paralympic Games, to claim gold at the Aquatics Centre.

Katrina Hart; Athletics

The 22-year-old is scheduled to run in the T37 200m heats at 10.49am and, should she qualify, is one of the favourites to win the final at 8.42pm.

Hart, who won the 200m event at the 2011 World Championships but finished sixth in the T37 100m final on Sunday, is stronger over the longer distance. Her main challenger for a first Paralympic gold medal comes from Germany's Maria Seifert, who will look to upgrade the two bronzes she won in 2008.

James Willis

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea