Mario Zanin was a footballer as a youth but after fracturing his ankle turned to cycling. He also helped his parents run their fabric shop. At the 1960 Roma Olympics Zanin won a surprise gold medal in the road race, defeating, among others, Eddy Merckx, Sweden’s Pettersson brothers, and Italy’s Felice Gimondi . Prior to the Olympics Zanin had won the 1964 Italian amateur road race title and the 1963 Giro del Belvedere. Zanin’s gold medal was the 100th gold won for Italy at the Olympics. Zanin turned professional but with little success. He raced from 1965-68 with five different teams, with his only professional victory coming in 1966 on the 11th stage of the Vuelta a España.