Chris Nikic, The First Athlete With Down Syndrome, Makes History At Florida Ironman

Chris Nikic

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Chris Nikic

Chris Nikic, The First Athlete With Down Syndrome, Makes History At Florida Ironman

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The Florida Ironman has been run 21 times. It’s a brutal race featuring a 2.4-mile open water swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full 26.2-mile marathon run. All competitors have to complete the race within 17 hours.

In the 2020 edition, run on 8 November, British triathlete Chris Lieferman was the race winner with a time of 7 hours, 52 minutes, 44 seconds.

Meanwhile, 21-year-old Chris Nikic of Maitland Florida breasted the tape after 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds an achievement which gained him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Why?

Because Chris is the first person with Down syndrome ever to complete an ironman triathlon.

Chris Nikic, Ironman
Chris Nikic competing in the Florida Ironman

His feat, during which he was aided by his guide, Dan Grieb was hailed as a ‘historic achievement’ by the Special Olympics, not surprising when you consider that Chris couldn’t walk until he was four years old and only managed to start eating solid food when he was five.

Chris started by getting involved with the Special Olympics triathlon. Then in October of last year, he finished a 1,000-metre open-water swim. His father Nik Nikic never thought it would be possible. It was then that Chris decided to look for a new challenge. He learned that no one with Down syndrome had ever completed an Ironman triathlon and set his sights on being the first. He successfully completed a half Ironman over a course he set himself when the event was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.

Then put his name down for the Florida Ironman.

“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” Chris’s dad said after the race, via a press release.

“Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion, normalcy, and leadership. It’s about being an example to other kids and families that face similar barriers, proving no dream or goal is too high.”

Chris Nikic, ironman
Chris Nikic competing in the swimming section of the Florida Ironman

Chris has been interviewed on ESPN, featured on the cover of numerous magazines, filmed a video for the National Down Syndrome Society, and appointed a Special Olympics ambassador.

He was thrilled to receive congratulatory messages from celebrities, including tennis great Billie Jean King and runner Kara Goucher, as well as others from around the world, including 33,000 new followers on social media.

So what are his goals now?

“My dream is to buy my own home, buy my own car and get a smoking hot blonde from Minnesota,” he told Runner’s World. 

All images via CNN.

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