JUST when you thought these Paralympics could not reveal any more extraordinary comeback stories, surely that of new H4 hand cycling time trial gold medallist, Italy's Alex Zanardi, will be hard to beat.
Eleven years ago, the 45-year-old former Formula One driver defied all odds by surviving a horrific high-speed crash during a Champ Car race in Germany.
After making a pit stop, Zanardi's car spun out of control as it picked up speed to re-join the race and veered onto the track. Canadian driver Alex Tagliani, travelling at 320kmh, could not avoid him.
As rescuers sifted through the wreckage they realised both his legs had been sliced off and he lost so much blood that a priest began to read him his last rites in the helicopter flying him to hospital.
His heart stopped seven times. Doctors believed he disproved studies about how long a body can survive, telling him 'Officially, you're a dead man.'
But Zanardi did not die, and neither did his love for racing.
After designing himself a special set of prosthetic legs he returned to professional motor racing, winning four times in German touring cars.
Zanardi took up hand cycling five years ago and won silver at the World Championships in Denmark last year.
His journey took him back to Brands Hatch in the Paralympics, a track where he finished second during a Formula 3000 race 21 years ago.
He conquered it this time after beating Germany's Nobert Mosandl by more than 27 seconds.
"I've had a magical adventure - and this is a fantastic conclusion," he said. "This is a great accomplishment, one of the greatest of my life."
But it is not only a gold medal he has won.
His friend Jimmy Vasser, a former racing driver and current co-owner of the KV Racing Technology team, called him on the eve of the race with an incentive to do well.
"He told me 'If you win gold, I'm going to put you in a car for the Indy 500'. So I'm going to call him back and say 'Jimmy, I've got the gold medal. How about the car?'"
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