Were you inspired by Lance Armstrong? How about now with those "Tour de France titles being stripped," "lifetime cycling ban," and "confession to using performance enhancing drugs things?" Maybe just him being an asshole is enough to turn you off.
Now that you've had any sense of wonder or confidence beaten out of you by his fall from grace, here is one athlete out there that is far more inspirational than Armstrong and a far better role model: The effervescent Alex Zanardi.
Some of you may know Zanardi from his time in Formula One and Champ Cars. In 1996 and 1997 he won the CART championship for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. His excited personality endeared him to fans, and his trademark celebratory donuts have been imitated by winning racers until today.
Those championships earned him a trip to Formula One, where he performed pretty dismally. He didn't give up and returned to Champ Car racing in 2001.
Then he lost his legs in a terrifying accident.
Instead of giving up on himself, Zanardi stayed positive. He got prosthetic legs (he liked them because he could choose his own height). Then he got back behind the wheel of specially adapted race cars in both Champ Car (he ran 13 laps on the track where he lost his legs) and World Touring Cars.
He won some touring car races, but then decided to call it quits and turned his focus to hand cycling. Last summer, all of Zanardi's hand cycle training came to fruition: The 45-year old won two Paralympic gold medals in London.
In 2001, Zanardi was given the last rites on the race track with oil from his race car as he bled to death on a race track. Eleven years later, he's a Paralympic gold medalist who worked his ass off to get there, seemingly without the need for drugs or steroids.
(Hat Tip @JoeySelmants!)