Pope hails Zanardi’s ‘lesson of humanity’ through disability

ROME — Pope Francis has praised Alex Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity as the Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medallist recovers from a handbike crash.

Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. It was published on the front page of sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday.

“Dearest Alessandro, your story is an example of how to start again after an unforeseen stop. Through sport, you have taught us to live life as a protagonist, teaching a lesson of humanity through disability. Thank you for having given strength to those who have lost it. In this painful moment, I am close to you and I pray for you and your family,” the letter read.

It was signed “Fraternally, Francis.”

Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since he crashed his handbike into a truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on Friday during a relay event.

He is stable, but suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage. The Siena hospital where he is being treated has said he will remain in a medically induced coma until at least next week.

Zanardi’s son, Niccolo, has been posting messages on his Instagram feed urging him on. The latest on Wednesday featured a photo of Niccolo holding his father’s hand and vowing never to let go.

“Come on Dad,” he wrote, “another tiny step even today.”

The Vatican, in confirming the letter, recalled that Zanardi had recently contributed to Francis’ benefit auction to support two Lombardy hospitals that were overwhelmed by the coronavirus outbreak. Vatican News said Zanardi had donated one of the uniforms he wore when he won a gold

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Ancajas open for rematch vs Santiago to end doubts

Photo from Top Rank

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino boxing star Jerwin Ancajas has been very vocal about his intentions of facing other top fighters in the super flyweight division.

But there is also one fight that Ancajas and his camp want, which is far from the allure that potential showdowns against the likes of Roman Gonzalez, Juan Estrada and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai would provide.

In Ancajas’ last eight successful defenses of his IBF belt, his bout against unheralded Mexican Alejandro Santiago in 2018 was the only fight that raised eyebrows.

“We’re very open. We also want to fight him [Santiago] again because there were a lot of issues saying that Jerwin should’ve lost. We want that fight again to put an end to those questions,” Joven Jimenez, Ancajas’ trainer and manager, said in Filipino in The Hit List podcast last Friday.

Ancajas was tipped to beat Santiago convincingly, but only to settle for a split draw.

After the close call, Ancajas redeemed himself with a pair of sixth-round stoppages over Ryuichi Funai of Japan and Miguel Gonzalez of Chile.

The 28-year-old Ancajas (32-1-2, 22 KOs) was originally scheduled to defend his title against Jonathan Rodriguez of Mexico in April in Las Vegas before the coronavirus pandemic happened.

Despite the postponement and amid the lockdown, Ancajas said he’s kept himself focused and ready to return in the ring.

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