Channel 4 topical panel show The Last Leg is best known for taking no prisoners with its darkly funny commentary, but last night’s episode took an emotional detour as co-host Alex Brooker delivered a brilliant speech about his personal hero – Paralympian Alex Zanardi.
As Brooker explained in the programme, Zanardi is an ex-Formula 1 driver who lost both legs in a motorsport crash 15 years ago, and has since found new success in the Paralympic sport of hand-cycling, winning two gold medals at London 2012 and now picking up the top prize in Rio.
After his win, Zanardi said, “I feel very lucky, I feel my life is a never-ending privilege.” It’s that attitude that Brooker (who was born with hand and arm deformities and a twisted leg) says inspires him as a disabled man.
“He’s my hero,” Brooker said. “More so than Justin Timberlake and Thierry Henry.”
“The great thing about Alex is not that he’s a world-class hand-cyclist, but his attitude to disability is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before.
“I’ve been disabled all my life and I’ve complained about it when I wanted. I come on here celebrating my disability and I’m confident, but I’ll never fully be completely okay with it.
“Able-bodied people at home will watch the Paralympic Games and be inspired by it – but as a disabled man, he inspires me.
“I’ve overcome a lot of issues over the years and as I come into later life, I’ve got new ones to come – I worry about how I’ll hold my child and things like that.
“But to see somebody like that talk the way he does, to me it means the world and makes me proud to be disabled. That epitomises the Paralympic Games.”
Brooker’s poignant speech attracted praise from viewers of the TV series, which itself began as a special Paralympic TV programme in 2012 before spinning into a regular entertainment show due to popular demand.