Rio Paralympics 2016: Alex Zanardi wins gold on eve of 15-year crash anniversary

Alex Zanardi
Zanardi made 45 appearances in Formula 1 following his debut in 1993
Paralympic Games on the BBC
Venue: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Dates: 7-18 September Time in Rio: BST -4
Coverage: Live updates, video clips, medal table, results and news alerts, catch-up service, plus commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Television coverage on Channel 4.

Former Formula 1 driver Alex Zanardi won a Paralympic gold medal on the eve of the 15-year anniversary of when he lost his legs in a motorsport crash.

The 49-year-old hand-cyclist, who won two gold medals at London 2012, finished first in the H5 road time trial in Rio on Wednesday.

He had both legs amputated after crashing in the American Memorial 500 CART race at Lausitz, Germany, in 2001.

"I feel very lucky, I feel my life is a never-ending privilege," said Zanardi.

"Where today you have the Olympic Stadium, on that piece of land they used to have an IndyCar circuit, which is where I won my very first pole position - for a romantic guy like me this is quite special."

Zanardi, who has also won eight world titles since first racing a hand bike in 2009, completed the 20km course in 28 minutes 36.81 seconds - less than three seconds quicker than silver medallist Stuart Tripp of Australia.

Alex Zanardi
Zanardi crashed while leading the American Memorial 500 Cart race on 15 September, 2001

"Normally I don't thank God for these type of things as I believe God has more important stuff to worry about, but today is too much, I had to raise my eyes and thank him," he added.

But Zanardi, who also won silver in the road race on Thursday, insisted his story was no more remarkable than those of the other 4,300 athletes competing at the Paralympics.

"Even my accident, what happened to me, became the biggest opportunity of my life," he said. "All the things I am doing today are related to my new condition.

"When you find yourself in a certain situation you have to identify where you want to go and focus on what you can achieve on that given day.

"Whether it is a small thing or big one, step-by-step you can make things happen.

"At the time I was asked if I would ever step back in a race car, but what was very important for me was to go into the bathroom and pee on my own, but I could not do that.

"I had to be helped. That was my number one priority. Day by day I managed to regain control and strength, regain some confidence and concentrate on different things and here I am now."

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