[to top of second column]
"He's a lion," said his former teammate, Jimmy Vasser. "He just never gave up."
Zanardi thought of it as part of his destiny, just something that happened to him, said Chip Ganassi, who owns the team that Zanardi once raced for.
"That was like a speed bump for him," Ganassi said.
Zanardi took up paracycling to stay in shape. A hand cycle is powered by the arms and features two coasting rear wheels and one steerable front wheel. In 2007, he was invited to attend the pasta party at the New York City marathon that was thrown by his sponsor, Barilla. He decided that if he was going, he should take part.
At the race, he passed a well-known rider and finished fourth. By 2011, he was first.
Now he's challenging American Oscar "Oz" Sanchez, who won a gold medal in the time trial at the Paralympics in Beijing and a bronze medal in the road race.
Sanchez is a formidable competitor who overcame overwhelming odds as well. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Sanchez turned a life of drugs and street gangs around by joining the U.S. Marines. He was about to transfer to the Navy Seals when he suffered a spinal cord injury in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident.
Zanardi knows the course will be tough -- he once drove the track at Brands Hatch, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from London. To make things worse, he had a bad crash with his favorite bike a few weeks ago -- a picture on his Twitter feed showed a crumpled vehicle, its front wheel askew.
But Papis said Zanardi had shrugged off such accidents.
"He would say, `It can't be that bad, because I can't break my leg anymore,' " Papis said.
In the days before this big race, the normally talkative Zanardi has shunned interviews, concentrating on the task at hand, even as interest in his story has skyrocketed.
On Wednesday, it's all about the bike -- even though it's about a million other things, too.
"In my career I've always received a lot of support, but I would not expect so much as I'm getting these days," he told followers on Twitter. "Thank you all."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Sports index
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor