First Person with Down Syndrome Completes an Ironman Triathlon

Chris Nikic shatters stereotypes and world records along the way.

Nov 26, 2020
First Person with Down Syndrome Completes an Ironman Triathlon | Chris Nikic shatters stereotypes and world records along the way.

For the first time ever, a Special Olympics athlete crossed the finish line of an Ironman triathlon and made history for his amazing accomplishment. Chris Nikic, 21, conquered  a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile marathon run at the Ironman Florida competition on November 7, 2020 according to a Special Olympics press release.

But this was no easy task for the athlete from Maitland, Florida. During the Panama City Beach sporting event, Chris fell off his bike and was attacked by ants during a nutrition break but he kept going. He completed the triathlon in 16 hours, 36 minutes and 9 seconds. And his achievement earned him a place in the Guinness World Records.

“It's an honor to welcome Chris into the Guinness World Records fraternity as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN, and I look forward to seeing what more is in store from this remarkable young man," Craig Glenday, Guinness’s editor-in-chief told Special Olympics.

Chris is a highly motivated young man and knew he could do what he set his mind to achieve. He posted on his Instagram account: “Ironman. Goal set and achieved. Time to set a new and BIGGER Goal for 2021.”

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Training for the Ironman over the past year was a long process according to CNN. Chris and his father developed the “1 percent better challenge” to help keep Chris motivated and promote Down syndrome awareness.

“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” Nik Nikic told CNN. “Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion and leadership.”

Chris partnered with his Unified partner and coach Dan Grieb for the Ironman competition. “I’m no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognize who Chris is; a human being who has goals and dreams just like everyone else,” his coach told the Special Olympics. “He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead.”

The Ironman organization documented this historic race with updates on the organization’s Twitter feed including live streaming the last two miles of Chris’s run.

“We are beyond inspired, and your accomplishment is a defining moment in Ironman history that can never be taken away from you,” the Ironman Triathlon organization said in a tweet.

An impressive 33,000 people around the world congratulated Chris on his accomplishment according to CNN including runner Kara Goucher and tennis great Billie Jean King.

While many would take it easy after this great accomplishment, that’s just not Chris. According to Special Olympics, the recent high school graduate will now work on qualifying for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games and will be busy raising funds for Special Olympics, Down syndrome and Racing for Orphans with Down syndrome. “I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

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Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.