Pope Francis has written to former Formula One driver and Paralympic champion Alex Zanardi, telling him his life is a “lesson of humanity”.
The Italian is in intensive care after suffering severe head injuries in a handbike accident on Friday.
In a handwritten letter published by a sports newspaper in Italy, Pope Francis said the 53-year-old was an example of how to live life to the full.
Zanardi turned to handbike racing after losing both legs in a 2001 Champ Car crash in Germany.
He is an inspirational figure in the worlds of motorsport and Paralympic endeavour, a hugely popular and positive competitor who returned from life-changing injuries with a smile.
The Italian won a total of four Paralympic gold medals, two each at London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
“Dear Alessandro, your story is an example of how to succeed in starting again after an unexpected stop.
“Through sport, you have taught us how to live life to the full, making disability a lesson of humanity.
“Thank you for giving strength to those who had lost it. At this painful time, I am close to you, I pray for you and your family,” the pope stated.
Zanardi is being treated at the Santa Maria alle Scotte hospital in Siena.
The most recent hospital statement on Tuesday said that his condition remained serious but stable.(Reuters/NAN)