How’s Alex doing? What do doctors say? I try to follow everything from here, from Canada, but in Italy you will certainly have more updated information. I hope once again he can pull himself out of suffering. For me a special man, he taught me a lot. He helped me a lot to overcome the weight of that accident with his way of thinking. Alex Tagliani answered the phone from Montreal, the driver who on September 15, 2001 at the Lausitzring circuit found himself in front of Zanardi’s out-of-control car, hitting it at over 300 an hour. Son of emigrants, he speaks our language very well and still competes in the local NASCAR championship: My dad from Brescia, my mother from Garda. Grandfather Calogero was in love with engines, he built race cars and go-karts and ran, the last time trial was at 96 years old.
Let’s talk about Alex, about the first accident.
S. At the beginning I didn’t know what had happened, they had also brought me to hospital in Germany, it was the days immediately after the attack on the Twin Towers.
There were 13 laps left and there was a battle between four cars, at that time the Indy had 1,000 horses. In an oval track at very high speeds, you cannot stick to another car because of too many aerodynamic turbulences. Follow it a little bit inside or outside, also the slope of the track makes you bend your head. You can’t move it, not like in Formula 1. I saw Alex’s car out of the corner of his left eye on the very flat track, he ended up on the grass after slipping out of the pits. I tried to steer left, but the blow was so strong that I lost consciousness.
Then he woke up.
I had a little back pain, I asked what had happened to Alex and his wife Daniela arrived to find me in the room. She told me about her husband’s problems, he was very kind. The bad thing for me came when I left the hospital.
Zanardi, Formula 1 and handbike champion
I had to prepare for the next race in England, but I was thinking about nothing but the accident. I looked at myself in the mirror or watched a movie, and thought about it. In front of the TV I didn’t even know which channel I had put. I had dinner and those images never left. Whatever I did, after five minutes, the thought returned. A terrible feeling. I wanted to stop running.
Yes, I had my head somewhere else and very dangerous for a pilot. Of the race in England I remembered absolutely nothing, neither the final position nor the various stages. It had never happened to me.
In the end what made her change her mind?
Seeing Alex again. He was in Toronto on the pit lane in June 2002. He came to see me and we talked a little. He said to me: “Do you know what the advantage of my new legs is? They are three centimeters higher. ” He was quiet, joking and telling jokes. He said he was busy getting back to driving, talking about steering wheel controls. L changed everything for me too.
How did you feel at that moment?
I felt lighter. It made me realize that for him it was a race accident and that I could have taken him as well. And after that I always kept in touch with Daniela, I sent her messages to tell her that a special woman, an incredible support.
Did you meet with Alex again?
It was not easy, I was running in the US and he was in Europe, but we were writing emails and messages. And every so often when he came to America to see his friends, he happened to spend some time together.
Who did you hear about the handbike accident?
From my aunt who lives in Italy: she sent a WhatsApp to my mom when the news spread.
What would you say to Alex Zanardi now if you could talk to him?
How special with his way of seeing things, which taught me so much. I will always remember that day in Toronto, in those minutes I understood that I could turn the page. With one sentence Alex showed me how strong he was. For this reason I was not surprised when I saw him win gold in the Olympics, go back to racing cars. He has the ability to make extraordinary things seem normal, I hope he can get out of it again. For him and his beautiful family.
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