It is the final night of my summer break, and I head back to London on Thursday to tackle the forthcoming year head on. I have written of my sentiments about the year past and of the year to come, but for this entry I want to take a sideways step to pay tribute to one of my heroes, a gentleman about whom I have posted before. That gentleman is Alex Zanardi and a few hours ago he handcycled his way to a gold medal at the Paralympics, the culmination of a journey which started over ten years ago when he lost both legs in a horrifying motor racing accident.
I watched an interview with Alex this morning in which he said that he booked his Paralympic ticket at the moment his car was broadsided by that of another competitor, severing both his legs and leaving him with less than a litre of blood in his body by the time the doctors got to him, assuming, as you might expect, that he was dead.
Astonishingly, and literally against all the odds, Alex survived, drove a Formula One car again, albeit adapted, and won races in touring cars. From the moment he discovered handcycling, however, he knew that his motor racing career was over and that he had discovered a new passion. A gold medal was his goal, and having achieved that, he has spoken openly about his feeling that tomorrow will be slightly empty, lacking a challenge probably for the first time in his life. I have no doubt that he will seek out another one very quickly indeed and excel in that endeavour.
Whenever I am feeling a little down about the way things are going I think of Mr. Zanardi and try to adopt a little of his attitude. He is an extraordinary man, humble and genuine, fully deserving of his gold medal, and, quite apart from anything else, has thrown his competitive mind into the design of comfortable and properly functional prosthetic limbs, having been horribly disappointed with what he was initially given after his accident.
Alex will retire from handcycling, supposedly, but has said that there is a small chance that he might get better with age like a red wine. I for one would be delighted to see him at Rio in 2016, but have nothing except praise and overwhelming admiration for what he has done. I will try to bear his spirit in mind and keep things in perspective when I next have a tough day at the compositional office. If I keep that single thought in mind through this coming year I think I will have done well.
Meanwhile, though, I am raising a glass to Alex tonight and I hope that he is doing the same. Somehow I suspect he is.