Alex Zanardi

Former Formula One racer Alex Zanardi took the Paralympic gold in para-cycling earlier this week by laying down a time of 24:50.22. Para-cycling pits competitors against one another in handbike races. On taking the checkered flag, Zanardi slid from his carbon-fiber bike and hoisted it above his head with one hand in triumph. The victory underscores just how far the former race car driver has come since September 15, 2001.

Nearly 11 years ago to the day, Zanardi was competing in a CART race in Lausitz, Germany when a horrific crash saw a competitor clip across the front of his car at nearly 200 miles per hour. The impact took both his legs, and the racer lost over 70 percent of his blood before he got to the hospital. Miraculously, he survived, and while doctors cautioned of a lengthy recovery, Zanardi was walking again in months. Dissatisfied with his prosthetic legs, he designed a set of his own, and it wasn't long before he returned to auto racing in specially-modified cars.

Originally, Zanardi began hand biking to stay in shape, but slowly began competing. This week, he bested former gold medalist Oscar Sanchez for the win.