A race about more than just the finish line and victory celebrations

There are outstanding athletes and who have everything going for them. Then, there are the people like Chris Nikic an outstanding athlete who succeeded, even with the odds stacked against him.

On November 7th at only 21 years of age Chris Nikic from Florida made Ironman history by crossing the finishing line.  Not an ordinary feat for Nikic who has down syndrome and didn’t start walking until about 4 years of age.

For Chris, the race was more than just about the finish line and victory celebrations.

Despite having been diagnosed with this genetic condition that may cause varying levels of learning disability and slower physical development, Nikic crossed the line of Florida’s Visit Panama City Beach Ironman in under 17 hours, beating the course cut-off time by 14 minutes. His achievement earned official recognition from Guinness World Records, having been the first athlete with Down’s syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon.

Crossing the Ironman triathlon finishing line in a time of 6:18:48 hours actually made Chris officially the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon by swimming 3.86 kilometers (2.4 miles) cycling 180.2 kilometers and running for 42.2 kilometers – an accomplishment that  no other athlete with the genetic condition had ever attempted  or finished. Organisers of the gruelling event described Chris Nikic’s accomplishment as “a defining moment in Ironman history.”

 “To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” said his father. “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. If Chris can do an Ironman, he can do anything.”

Credos can be given across Chris’s entire life not only to how he trains and competes. As a child his muscle strength and tension were considerably weaker than a child without Down Syndrome and it wasn’t until the age of four that Nikic was able to walk without assistance.

“get 1% better every day,” is Nikic’s motto and what powered him on even following a crash that left him with a bleeding knee, to compete the race. He was assisted by strong support from spectators along the track of the cycling and marathon sections – as well as ongoing encouragement from Grieb, who although they were untethered, rode alongside him on the cycling stage.

Posting after his Ironman event, Nikic proudly said “Goal set and achieved. Time to set a new and bigger goal for 2021.”

Nikic now plans to set his sights on competing in the next Special Olympics, which are to be held in Orlando, Florida in 2022.