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Inspiration on track at home and abroad
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Perhaps the most inspirational display of human tenacity came last week during the 2012 Paralympics in London, as former Formula 1 and CART racer Alex Zanardi won three medals in hand-cycling events. For those who may not know, Zanardi was involved in a devastating high speed crash in 2001. The Italian driver lost both legs as a result of his injuries. The consummate competitor, Zanardi was back behind the wheel, racing touring cars for the 2003 season using hand controls. He continued to do so until 2009, when he discovered the sport of hand cycling and vowed to compete in the 2012 Paralympics. Not only did he fulfill his vow, but he claimed an incredible pair of Gold medals, followed by a Silver with the Italian mixed relay squad.
You don’t have to travel the globe to find inspiration though, as the persevering human spirit is alive and well here in Ontario too. I recently joined Duncan Johnson from East Metro Auto Leasing at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, where Johnson introduced me to a pair of incredible young men.
Oakville resident Robert Buren was a motorcycle racer and avid mountain biker. Like most who take part in either sport for long enough, Buren had endured several crashes on both. But one day in 2008, while landing a jump during a forest ride, Buren went over the handle bars of his bicycle. Just about everyone who has ever ridden a mountain bike has done the same, but this time the result was more permanent than the usual scrapes. Robert Buren became a paraplegic. Not content to let his lack of use of his legs dissuade him, the determined man was back at Mosport, taking part in a lapping day in his Infiniti. A few more lapping days convinced Robert that he should get back on the bike, so a special set of controls were installed on his motorcycle. A pair of outriggers, much like training wheels, are raised up off the ground at the touch of a switch and drop down again to steady the bike when the rider comes to a stop. In addition to lapping his Suzuki GSX-R and Infiniti, Buren is also an avid triathlete and even gets out on the water on a jetski.
Buren met Justin Houston and thought that he would love the lapping day experience. Like Buren, Justin Houston was an active guy with a passion for bikes. Houston was diving into a pool and broke his neck as he entered the water (one of the most common causes of quadriplegia). With no muscle control, Justin was just along for the ride as he was strapped in to Johnson’s BMW for a few hot laps around the legendary Grand Prix circuit. Said Houston: “I was laughing like crazy because I was flopping around like a fish. We went so fast I blew my shoe off!” As the pair sped around the track, a small crowd gathered across from the pits, where the new events centre is being constructed. That’s because Houston’s dad is part of the building team and he and his co-workers were cheering the guy on.
As exciting as it was for these guys to get out and experience the thrill of speed, it was a great to see two young men who are so full of life. Like Alex Zanardi, these guys refuse to sit back and let life’s sour grapes take over, instead living every day to the fullest. We could all learn a lot from them!