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Original Issue

SHIFTING GEARS

AFTER A TRAGIC ACCIDENT, AN OPEN-WHEEL LEGEND RETURNS

NEARLY 18 YEARS after losing his legs in a horrific crash, 52-year-old Alex Zanardi, a two-time CART series champion turned Paralympian, is returning to an American racetrack for the first time. Joining John Edwards, Jesse Krohn and Chaz Mosteng only his hands. SI spoke with Zanardi about driving without pedals and returning to the U.S.

SI: How does driving feel with the hand-operated brake system?

AZ: I have to admit: The very first lap felt a little weird. It was time to go, [and] I had the engine running. I looked down at that emptiness [without his prosthetic legs]. I thought, "Are we not missing something here? Are we sure about what we're doing?" But now I'm capable of enduring the distance in the car more than I thought possible.

SI: How does it feel to race again for the first time in America, and to do it at Daytona?

AZ: It means a lot. I have returned to competition in Europe, but here is where I [made a name for myself]. And Daytona 24 has always been one of the things I wanted to do because I heard so much about this race when I was living in the U.S.

SI: What have you learned about yourself and your body since the accident?

AZ: I've learned that when I was in my mid-20s—and this goes beyond having lost my legs—I was physically much more gifted. But I was not as wise as I am today. The reality is we could live 1,000 lives and still die as very ignorant individuals. But everything you do [takes you] another step on the road to complete yourself.

SI: Have you ever surprised yourself with what you're capable of?

AZ: On race day, most of the time, especially in hand cycling, it's very, very difficult to surprise yourself. But in the [2013] world championships, [I found] my opponents kind of all worked against me. When it came down to the final sprint, I was done. But I told myself, "Hey Alex, you may as well give it a go." I actually ended up winning another gold medal.

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

TATJANA MARIA, WHO LOST TO SERENA WILLIAMS IN THE FIRST ROUND OF THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN, HAS FEWER THAN HALF THE TWITTER FOLLOWERS OF SERENA'S 1-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER'S DOLL.

THEY SAID IT

"I'M NOT GOING TO SIT HERE AND HAVE A POOPY DIAPER AND POUT. I'M GOING TO BE A GOOD TEAMMATE AND SUPPORT THE GUYS."

BRUINS DEFENSEMAN JOHN MOORE, on being a healthy scratch for a second straight game on Jan. 14.