Despite what even his own family members told him, Chris Nikic never let his down syndrome stand in the way of his Ironman Triathlon training. Now, he’s the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman Triathlon!
A Simple Dream
Don’t know about the Ironman Triathlon? It’s only one of the most challenging races in the world! Each competitor needs to swim for 2.4 miles in open water, to start. Then, they ride a bike for 112 miles, finishing with a massive 26.2-mile run. And all that in under 17 hours!
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Chris Nikic, who has Down syndrome, has always dreamed of running the Ironman triathlon. Even when his family and doctors said that it felt like an unobtainable dream, Chris continued to wake up every day determined to become stronger. Seven days a week he trained, becoming a dedicated athlete along the way. “I am a person with Down syndrome who will complete the Ironman. I am going to make history by crushing it,” the 21-year-old from Maitland, Florida, stated before the race. “I have to work hard and give my best every day. If I do an Ironman and become a pro-speaker I will have a chance to get my dream.” Chris’ dreams include having his own job and house, as well as marrying a “smoking hot blonde.”
Chris does not hide who inspires and supports him the most: his father, Nik Nikic. “For me and my wife, the most important thing is that my son is being included and having a sense of purpose,” he said. “I am excited about being a part of this journey and watching him and seeing how he feels and how he handles things and watching him being included by the Ironman Foundation.” Nik also made it clear that the “smoking hot blonde” is more of an idea of doing what others said he could not, not a real desire.
Meanwhile, former Ironman finisher Dan Grieb also served as an inspirational figure for Chris. The two trained together, and Grieb even guided him through the race! Of course, training Ironman’s first Down syndrome runner was no easy task. Grieb certainly had days of doubt. However, Chris never felt unsure for a second. Believe it or not, he spent up to eight hours a day training! From biking riding and lifting weights to swimming laps or running, he did it all. His favorite? “I would say the running. It makes my butt cute and the ladies love it,” Chris said before starting the run, chuckling. “I am extremely excited. I can’t wait to crush this Ironman.”
First Ironman Finisher With Down Syndrome
During his training, Chris Nikic became a hero to many around the world with Down syndrome. As he powered through the grueling race, many of the messages and letters he received went through his mind. Parents are reaching out saying I am a hero to their kids,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.” His dad, Nik, relates to these parents as well, remembering how doctors first talked about Chris to him and his wife. “When your child is born with Down syndrome, everyone tells you what they can’t do and how tough it is going to be … Chris is going to prove if he can do an Ironman and he can do anything else,” Nik said. “Being first opens a lot of doors for him and people like him.”
In the end, while Chris did not win, he did finish, becoming the first person with Down syndrome to finish and Ironman Triathlon. And that’s all he ever wanted. “It’s helping to give people of view of a future that is completely different,” Nik said. “Our hope is that Chris will launch thousands of parents to look at their children differently.”