The 45-year-old Italian made 45 appearances in Formula One following his debut in 1993 and competed at Brands Hatch when racing in F3000 early in his career, placing second, and then in the World Touring Car Championship later, placing third.
His more recent appearances in Kent came after he was injured in the American Memorial 500 Cart event in Germany in September 2001. A 200mph accident saw him lose both his legs.
As well as competing in top-level motorsport since his accident, Zanardi has also made a successful transition to hand-cycling, culminating in his London 2012 Games triumph today.
He won the men's Individual H4 Time Trial before lifting his bike above his head in celebration of a success that included the promise of a ride in one of motorsport's most famous events.
He said: 'I'm Alex Zanardi, I always have to come up with something at the end of a race - I have a bit of a big head.
'My great friend Jimmy Vasser called me last night and said if you win a gold medal I'm going to put you in a car for the Indy 500, so I will have to call him back tonight.
'I only collected a second place, a third-placed finish (at Brands Hatch) and to win I had to come back with a hand-cycle. It's an amazing feeling.
'I'm really, really happy for the result and I knew that this moment was going to bring a little bit of sadness as well.
'This is almost the last day of a great adventure and from Monday I will have to find something different, otherwise life will become a little boring.
'It's at the top of the scale with many other great moments I've been lucky enough to live.'
It's at the top of the scale with many other great moments I've been lucky enough to liveAlex Zanardi
Zanardi clocked 24:50 but had to watch his rivals finish before being certain of gold ahead of Germany's Norbert Mosandl (25:17) and Oscar Sanchez of the USA (25:35).
'That was the toughest moment; it was very hard to wait,' Zanardi added.
'I was a little bit emotional, because the prize was very high. I knew I could only do my best and I had to be happy.'
Zanardi played down his personal feat.
'Anybody can be an inspiration for each other,' he added.
One such inspiration is Gaysli Leon, who sustained spinal cord injures during the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which tragically took the lives of his wife and eight children.
Today he finished 10th in the H3 race won by Poland's Rafal Wilk.
Leon was granted a late entry to the Games and given a rapturous reception by the crowd.
'I feel like all the biggest athletes in the world,' he said. 'To hear the crowd cheering me on, I was so happy.
'I thank everybody all over the world who helped me. I didn't think it would come true, but by being here I have realised something very, very important.
'It's very hard for people with disabilities in Haiti, but I think I have showed they can do a lot of things.
'This is one of the greatest examples that we can show to them, to inspire them to go further.'
In total there were 18 gold medals won today, with Sarah Storey of Great Britain claiming a memorable hat-trick as she followed up her double success on the track at the Velodrome with victory in the women's Individual C5 Time Trial.
Australian David Nicholas won the men's C3, while Germans Michael Teuber and Tobias Graf took C1 and C2 gold respectively before and Christian Venge of Spain did likewise in the Individual B class.
In the women's competition there was gold success for Megan Fisher (C4), Allison Jones (C1-3), Kathrin Goeken (B), Sandra Graf (H3), Andrea Eskau (H4) and Marianna Davis (H1-2).
Carol Cooke took the mixed T1-2 Time Trial.
View some of today's action from Brands Hatch here.