Pope writes to Zanardi, hailing his example

Pope Francis has written a letter of support to injured Paralympic icon Alessandro Zanardi, hailing him as an "example of how to successfully start again", a sports daily said Wednesday.

Former Formula One driver Zanardi, who become one of the great figures in disabled sports after both his legs were amputated in 2001 following a motor racing accident, has been in a coma in hospital since a handbike crash last week.

The 53-year old suffered serious head injuries.

"Dearest Alessandro. Your story is an example of how to succeed in starting again after an unexpected stop," Francis said in a letter published by the Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Through sport, you have taught us to live life to the full, making disability a lesson in humanity.

"Thank you for giving strength to those who had lost it. At this painful moment, I am close to you and I pray for you and your family," he added.