A 21-year-old Florida man set a new world record this month when he become the first person with Down syndrome to cross the finish line in the 42-year history of the gruelling Ironman Race.
Chris Nikic becomes first person with Down syndrome to complete Ironman triathlon
Sports history was made this month when Chris Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. If you’re unfamiliar with the Ironman format, it is without doubt one of the most gruelling athletic competitions in the world: athletes are expected to complete a 2.4-mile swim, then a 112-mile bike ride, topped off with a full 26.2-mile marathon run. The 21-year-old Nikic completed the Florida-based race in 16 hours 46 minutes and 9 seconds, which is 14 minutes under the 17-hour cutoff time. Guinness World Records called Nikic’s achievement "awe inspiring" and registered him as officially the first person with Down syndrome to complete the punishing challenge.
“I can prove to kids that if I can do it, they can do it, too.” Says triathlete
On Saturday 7 November, after swimming 2.4 miles, 21-year-old Floridian athlete Chris Nikic cycled 112 miles, and then ran a full 26.2-mile marathon to become the first competitor with Down Syndrome to successfully cross the finish line in the 42-year history of the Iron Man Race.
For his Herculean efforts, Nikic also earned himself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person with Down Syndrome to become an official Ironman.
“Being the first person with Down Syndrome is a great feeling,” Nikic told TODAY, prior to the event. “I can prove to kids that if I can do it, they can do it, too.”
As important as taking on the physical and mental challenges of an Iron Man were to Nikic, he had other compelling reasons for entering the competition, according to GoodNewsNetwork. He might not have been carrying a banner, but the message he took across the finish line with him was clear.
“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” his dad told the BBC. “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.”
Nikic trained between four to six hours a day to prepare for the grueling event, and that training paid off. Even after suffering a fall from his bike during the second leg of the race, he called on his inner reserve of strength to get back up, keep going, and get the job done.
With hopes of competing in the 2022 Special Olympics scheduled on his home turf in Orlando, it looks as if Chris Nikic has plenty of big dreams yet to come true.
As for that medal he won for completing one of the world’s most grueling triathlons? He gave it straight to his Mom.
Inspirational athlete Chris aims for 1% gains every day
Chris wrote on Instagram:
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. I’m sorry for not responding personally to all your messages. It’s amazing but overwhelming because I got 33K new followers and messages since yesterday. I will try and catch up.
If you want to support my mission for Down Syndrome and Special Olympics go to my website ChrisNikic.com because 100% of the donations go to my charities. I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me.
Thank you to @ironmantri and @im_foundation for making it possible. Thank you @specialolympics @specialolympicsfl for starting the triathlon program. Thank you @rodsracing for giving a home to babies like me. I will be thanking so many more people over the coming days. But I must start with the 3 Angels who trained with me and did the race with me. Dan, Jenn and Carlos. #inclusion
Ironman served as Chris’ platform to become one step closer to a life of inclusion and leadership
According to CNN, Nikic and his father Nik developed the "1 percent better challenge" to stay motivated during training. The idea is to promote Down syndrome awareness while achieving 1% improvement each day, according to Nikic’s website.
"To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory," Nik Nikic said. "Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion and leadership."
After his record-setting achievement, Nikic will focus on competing in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games and continuing to raise money for Special Olympics, Down syndrome and RODS (Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome) through his platform.
"I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me," he wrote on Instagram.
TAKE THE 1% BETTER CHALLENGE
The Challange is to promote Down Syndrome Awareness. Two Steps: 1. You get 1% Better for 30-days 2. Help someone do the same. Buy a T-shirt. Each year, a select group of athletes from around the world race through the IRONMAN Foundation's Your Journey, Your Cause program to support the charities of our choice. Mine (Chris) include Down Syndrome, RODS & Special Olympics. We share a passion to create positive change in the world and prove "Anything is Possible".