This month, Chris Nikic became the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. Competing in Panama City Beach, Florida, Chris swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and ran 26.2 miles. His achievement was recognized by Guinness World Records.
Chris trained for months leading up to the event. Though the day wasn’t without difficulties — he had a crash during the bike portion of the race — he was thrilled to complete the challenge. He finished the race just under the 17-hour cutoff, in 16 hours 46 minutes and 9 seconds.
The Ironman Triathlon organization said on Twitter:
“We are beyond inspired, and your accomplishment is a defining moment in Ironman history that can never be taken away from you.”
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His dad, Nik, helped him train and came up with their slogan “1% better each day,” emphasizing that improvement is a slow and steady process. He stated:
“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory. Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion and leadership.”
Chris celebrated his victory on Instagram by thanking his family and friends:
“IRONMAN. Goal set and achieved. Time to set a new and BIGGER Goal for 2021. Whatever it is the strategy is the same. 1% Better every day. YES, I did the work but I had angels helping me. God surrounded me with angels. Best part of all. New family and friends. All about awareness and inclusion. Awareness for Down Syndrome and Special Olympics. Inclusion for all of us with all of you.”
What’s next for Chris? Long term, he’s planning on competing in the 2022 Special Olympics, and fundraising for the Special Olympics, Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome, and other Down syndrome advocacy organizations. His next racing event will be the Daytona Challenge on December 6.