Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - FRONT PAGE - Agence France-Presse sports­desk@hin­dus­tan­times.com

MI­LAN: Alex Zanardi, the for­mer For­mula One driver who be­came an in­spi­ra­tional Par­a­lympic cham­pion af­ter hav­ing both his legs am­pu­tated in a mo­tor rac­ing ac­ci­dent al­most two decades ago, was fight­ing for his life on Satur­day af­ter a hand­bike crash with doc­tors telling re­porters: “The neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age is se­ri­ous”.

Zanardi suf­fered se­ri­ous head in­juries with fears for his sight af­ter los­ing con­trol of his bike and col­lid­ing with a truck dur­ing a race in Italy on Fri­day.

The 53-year-old Ital­ian was air­lifted to hos­pi­tal in Siena and un­der­went three hours of del­i­cate neu­ro­surgery be­fore be­ing placed in an ar­ti­fi­cial coma.

Zanardi re­mained “in­tu­bated and on ar­ti­fi­cial res­pi­ra­tion” and his “neu­ro­log­i­cal pic­ture re­mains se­ri­ous,” doc­tors at the Santa Maria alle Scotte hos­pi­tal said. Dr Sabino Scol­letta, head of the emer­gency de­part­ment, said on Satur­day that Zanardi was in a “sta­ble con­di­tion”.

“The clin­i­cal pic­ture is good over­all, even if it re­mains se­ri­ous neu­ro­log­i­cally,” said Scol­letta, also re­fer­ring to “eye in­juries”.

“There could be con­se­quences for his sight. For this rea­son, we asked our oph­thal­mol­o­gists for thor­ough ad­vice, but the as­sess­ment can only be made in the next few days,” he ex­plained. Neu­ro­sur­geon Giuseppe Olivieri, who car­ried out the op­er­a­tion on Fri­day night, de­scribed Zanardi’s con­di­tion as “very se­ri­ous”.

“The con­di­tions are sta­ble, but the neu­ro­log­i­cal dam­age is se­ri­ous and un­cer­tain, and in­sta­bil­ity and de­te­ri­o­ra­tion may be pos­si­ble,” Olivieri said. “He ar­rived with sig­nif­i­cant crano-fa­cial trauma.

“All the bones of the face are frac­tured. He also has frac­tures on both sides of the frontal bone.

“At the mo­ment, we are not talk­ing about his neu­ro­log­i­cal state. This is some­thing that we will see later, when he wakes up and if he wakes up.”

“The pa­tient’s sit­u­a­tion is se­ri­ous, that is to say that he can also die. In such cases, the im­prove­ments are slow, while the wors­en­ing can be bru­tal.”

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been opened into the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the ‘Obi­et­tivo tri­col­ore’ re­lay race in Tus­cany.

Mario Valen­tini, coach of the Ital­ian Para­cy­cling na­tional team, said Zanardi lost con­trol of his bike on a hair­pin turn and made “two rolls” be­fore hit­ting an on­com­ing truck. The truck driver later un­der­went tests for al­co­hol and drugs which were neg­a­tive, his lawyer said.

An icon in Italy, Zanardi’s photo made the front pages of the coun­try’s three sports news­pa­pers on Satur­day.

Mes­sages of sup­port poured in for the for­mer Grand Prix driver who twice won the CART cham­pi­onship in the United States, be­fore hav­ing both his legs am­pu­tated fol­low­ing an ac­ci­dent on the Lausitzrin­g track in Ger­many in 2001. He went on to win four gold medals on his hand­bike in the 2012 and 2016 Par­a­lympic Games, and two sil­ver medals, and mul­ti­ple world cham­pi­onship ti­tles.

Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Giuseppe Conte wrote on Twit­ter: “Courage Alex, don’t give up. All of Italy is fight­ing with you.”

Zanardi raced for Jor­dan, Mi­nardi and Lo­tus in For­mula 1 in the early 1990s be­fore switch­ing to the CART cham­pi­onship in the United States where he was se­ries cham­pion in 1997 and 1998.

He re­turned to F1 with Wil­liams in 1999 be­fore head­ing back to the CART se­ries. “Alex is one of life’s truly in­spi­ra­tional peo­ple and as we all know, a fighter through and through. Stay strong and Forza Alex,” his for­mer Wil­liams team wrote on Twit­ter.


Alex Zanardi raced for Jor­dan, Mi­nardi and Lo­tus in For­mula 1 in the early 1990s be­fore he be­came an in­spi­ra­tional Par­a­lympic cham­pion af­ter a mo­tor rac­ing ac­ci­dent two decades back.

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