The fourth edition of the Paralympic relay “Obiettivo Tricolore” – created by Italian professional former racing driver and para cyclist Alex Zanardi – will start tomorrow from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and it will cross over into France, in a 22 stages journey in over 1,600 kilometers to reach Paris on October 1. Starting from September 9, 70 athletes will pass the baton riding handbikes, bicycles, Olympic wheelchairs, running, and canoeing along 22 stages to promote Paralympic sport internationally.
A UNIQUE RACE
Alex Zanardi shares a deep, special bond with this race, created as a symbol of restart after the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. After a whole career in motorsports and the Paralympics, he decided to create this competition as a symbol to encourage people to go beyond the boundaries of disability. During the first edition of the competition, on June 19, 2020, the Italian former driver crashed into a truck coming from the opposite side of the road. Thanks to the prompt intervention of the doctors, the four-time Paralympic champion in paracyclis in London (2012) and Rio de Janeiro (2016) managed to escape death and save himself from what seemed to be a fatal accident.
A battle well fought and won by the former F1 and Cart driver, after another accident that occurred almost 24 years ago: On September 15, 2001, during a Formula Cart race at Lausitzring, Germany, the terrible accident in which Zanardi lost his legs after a terrible crash with Alex Tagliani’s: 13 laps from the end of the race Zanardi lost control of his car. After the impact, he was immediately taken to a hospital in Berlin, where he remained in a medically induced coma for about four days. There, his right knee was irreparably compromised and therefore it was surgically removed. After six weeks of hospitalization and fifteen operations, Zanardi was able to leave the hospital to begin the rehabilitation process.
An accident that completely changed his life, after having competed in motorsports for more than 20 years. From there on, Zanardi dedicated all of his efforts to the promotion of Paralympic sports and their values.
THE RACE “
Obiettivo Tricolore” is a race of international scope, meant to go beyond the boundaries of disability, in order to demonstrate that physical and mental disabilities are not a limit, but a different life opportunity. This year it will unite two Olympic cities, Cortina d’Ampezzo – host of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2026 – and Paris, host of the 2024 Summer Olympics, passing through Milan, also host in 2026.
In addition to being a symbol of hope and redemption for all those people who experience and face disability with difficulty, it also represents a tool for social inclusion and cultural promotion.
This year’s protagonists shall be, as always, Paralympic athletes from “Obiettivo3”, a recruitment and introduction to sports project meant for people with disabilities created a few years ago by Zanardi himself. The project aims to help people with physical disabilities learn and spread the practice of sports, who are still a category heavily penalized by high costs and above all by the difficulty in understanding how to start. Participants of the relay will all be Paralympic athletes, specialists in sports disciplines such as para-cycling, paralympic athletics, and para-triathlon. This year, para canoeing will be added to the list of specialties.
Among the participants, Cristina Nuti – the first Italian with multiple sclerosis to complete an Ironman – the 2023 European handbike champions Ana Vitelaru, Giulia Ruffato, and Davide Cortini, and the 2023 European paratriathlon champions, Pierluigi Maggio and Ivan Territo. Also, Veronica Biglia – a Piedmontese athlete who took part in the Tokyo Paralympics – will participate.
THE PRESS CONFERENCE
“First of all as an athlete, and then as vice-president of the Culture, Education, Scientific Research, Entertainment and Sport Commission Senate Vice-President, I have supported this initiative since its first editions, ”Italian Senate member and former Paralympics athlete Giusy Versace introduced the press conference held at the “Sala Caduti di Nassirya” in the Italian Senate in Rome on September 6, 2023. “I consider sport an important vehicle for social integration and I am happy to be at the start of the first stage in Cortina D’Ampezzo.”
Italian Minister for Sport and Youth Andrea Abodi then took the word: “We all make a commitment so that the Paralympic practices can find ever more constant accessibility for all people and that sport can be a factor of sociality, education, and promotion of well-being. We are on the eve of the modification of article 33 of the Constitution and it seems to me that it is a commitment that we all assume and that we have undertaken, above all to ensure that paralympic activity finds ever lower barriers.”
President of the Italian Paralympic Committee Luca Pancalli attended the press conference in Rome as well: “Today we are here to honor a great project born from the intuition of Alex Zanardi and which over time has been able to grow and enrich itself, becoming something extraordinary and important. These kids will pass a baton to each other that represents the sharing of a sporting project, the promotion of Paralympic sport, and the ability to break down physical, mental, and in this case also territorial barriers.”
The president of CONI, Giovanni Malagò, also made his support for the initiative clear, connecting from Milan: “Obiettivo Tricolore is an advert of values for the whole of Italy and the fact that this year it will unite three Olympic cities such as Cortina d’ Ampezzo, Milan, and Paris amplifies the message even further.”
FCI Lazio President Maurizio Brilli, Emila-Romagna head of cabinet Giammaria Manghi, as well as paralympic athletes Eleonora Mele and Tiziano Monti, attended the press conference. AIPS President Gianni Merlo attended the conference as well.
AN OLYMPIC JOURNEY
Starting from tomorrow, September 9, participants will start from Cortina d’Ampezzo: They will cross Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Lombardia, Piemonte and Valle d’Aosta and then go through the Alps on the Piccolo San Bernardo. They will therefore enter France in the department of Haute-Savoie.
In France, athletes will cross the regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Burgundy-Franche-Comté, and Ilê-de-France, with stops in Bourg Saint Maurice, Annecy, Bourge en Bresse, Chalon sur Saône, Semur en Auxois (center of preparation of road cycling for the 2024 Olympic Games), Auxerre, Sens, Brie Comte Robert. Finally, they will reach Paris on October 1.
Credit: AIPS Media