Rio 2016 Paralympics: Former F1 Driver Alex Zanardi Wins Gold On Eve Of 15-Year Crash Anniversary
Alex Zanardi, a former Formula 1 driver, repeated as Paralympic hand-cycling time trial gold medalist on Wednesday, just one day before the 15-year anniversary of the horrific car crash in which he lost both his legs.
Rio 2016 Paralympics: Former F1 Driver Alex Zanardi Wins Gold
The 49-year-old Italian, who won two gold medals at London 2012, prevailed out of a 10-man field in 28 minutes, 36.81 seconds, covering the 20km course in Rio de Janeiro. He won by 2.74 seconds, making up 20 seconds after the 10km split.
“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,” Zanardi said. “I feel very lucky, I feel my life is a never-ending privilege.”
Zanardi previously won the New York City Marathon, as well as the 2014 Ironman World Championships. He began competing in hand-cycling in 2009.
The 1997 and 1998 CART series champion lost both his legs in the American Memorial 500 CART race at Lausitz, Germany, on Sept. 15, 2001– one of the most frightening accidents in auto-racing history.
Zanardi stated he went 50 minutes with less than one liter of blood, and his heart stopped beating seven times.
“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,” Zanardi said. “That was my No. 1 priority. Day by day I managed to regain control and strength, regain some confidence and concentrate on different things and here I am now.”
Australia’s Stuart Tripp won silver in Wednesday’s race, finishing less than three seconds behind 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,” added Zanardi.
He took to Twitter to thank his fans following his gold-medal win on Wednesday:
Isn’t about the 144 digits, simply that’s impossible to describe some kind of feelings
Thanks to YOU all, I mean it! pic.twitter.com/8KOjXT5izY
— alex zanardi (@lxznr) September 14, 2016
The Italian will attempt to repeat as Paralympic road race champion in his class on Thursday.
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games began on Sept. 7, and will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 18. They follow the Rio 2016 Olympics, which finished on Aug. 21.
LONGFIELD, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 08: Alessandro Zanardi of Italy competes in the Mixed H 1-4 relay on day 10 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at Brands Hatch on September 8, 2012 in Longfield, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)