Zanardi delights in Paralympic gold on eve of crash anniversary

Getty Images

Alex Zanardi was able to celebrate a triumphant and heart-warming return to Rio on Wednesday, after claiming his third Paralympic gold medal at a familiar venue.

Thursday marks the 15th anniversary of the horrifying accident in a CART race that resulted in ex-Formula One driver Zanardi having both of his legs amputated above the knee.

However, the Italian was nevertheless able to continue his motor-racing career in the World Touring Car Championship, while also turning to the sport of hand-cycling and achieving success.

A two-time champion at the 2012 Paralympics in London, Zanardi claimed victory in the men's H5 time trial in Rio to earn another gold.

His success in England four years ago came at Brands Hatch, a venue he had previously raced at, and it was a similar story this time around.

"Probably the most important reason which makes it very special for me to be here is the fact that where today you have the Olympic Stadium, on that piece of land they used to have an Indy Car circuit, which is where I won my very first pole position," explained an ecstatic Zanardi.

"When it was announced that the Olympic Stadium was going to be built there I thought 'wow, I've always loved that place and been super fast there'. But for some reason or another I never managed to win a race so [I thought] maybe it is time to go back to Rio and win something and put that right.

"Today that happened. As it happened at Brands Hatch in London, 2012. Exactly the same story. For a romantic guy like me this is quite special."

The 49-year-old added: "The life I have today is the living proof that everything is not always 100 per cent good or bad.

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