Alex Zanardi wins Paralympic gold on eve of 15-year anniversary of crash

Alex Zanardi
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Alex Zanardi, the former open-wheel auto-racing champion, repeated as Paralympic hand-cycling time trial gold medalist on Wednesday, the day before the 15-year anniversary of his horrific car crash.

Zanardi, 49, prevailed out of a 10-man field in 28 minutes, 36.81 seconds, covering the 20km course in Rio. 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.”

NBCSN and the NBC Sports app will have Paralympic coverage Wednesday from 2-6 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. ET.

Zanardi won his third Paralympic gold medal and fourth overall, adding to his New York City Marathon and world championship titles, plus his 2014 Ironman World Championships completion.

All this after Zanardi, the 1997 and 1998 CART series champion, lost both of his legs and was read his last rites after one of the scariest crashes in auto-racing history on Sept. 15, 2001.

Zanardi said 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.”

Zanardi will attempt to repeat as Paralympic road race champion in his class on Thursday.

MORE: Rio Paralympics broadcast schedule