Alex Zanardi, a contestant in the “Dancing with the Stars” competition, was transferred Monday to a specialist neuro-rehabilitation center in New York, his coach said.
Zanardi, an IT worker in his home town of Milan, was paralyzed in a 2002 crash in Valencia, Spain, that killed fellow competitor Marco Simoncelli.
Zanardi, 42, received an outpouring of support from fans and fellow athletes, and a number of motor sports stars lent their support for his involvement in “Dancing with the Stars.”
The contestant, who was competing with partner Tony Dovolani on the show, ended the competition in the seventh week, saying the challenge wasn’t to win the mirror ball trophy but more to lift up the spirit of his fellow disabled competitor, Mark Ballas.
He also said he and Simoncelli grew closer by talking and by trying to treat each other like younger friends.
“We have a very strong friendship, one of the strongest in the world,” Zanardi said on the show.
Both Zanardi and Simoncelli were injured at the 1998 Para-cycling World Championships when a wheel spun out of control and struck both men.
Nancy Dahlgren, head of the research and education center at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, where Zanardi was transferred, said the two had seen each other about two years ago and enjoyed talking about the accident.
The center was founded by former President John F. Kennedy’s sister-in-law, Rosemary Kennedy, in Baltimore, where the center for spinal cord injury was founded in 1975.
“He’s made incredible progress, he’s improved tremendously,” Dahlgren said. “We are extremely happy to be here and see progress and feel confident that the treatment and care he’s receiving here are going to be very beneficial in his recovery.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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