21-Year-Old Man Becomes 1st Person With Down Syndrome to Complete Ironman Race

Chris Nikic
Chris Nikic

A 21-year-old made history by being the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. The race has been around for nearly 50 years, and includes swimming, biking and running.

Chris Nikic, 21, was also the first person with Down syndrome to ever sign up for the race, and he completed the race in Panama City Beach, Florida on Saturday in just under 17 hours.

“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory,” his father, Nik Nikic, said in a statement. “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’s coach guide and coach, Dan Grieb, said he’s not shocked at what the recent high school graduate accomplished. Chris has also competed in the Special Olympics.

“I’m no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognize who Chris is; a human being that has goals and dreams just like everyone else. He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead,” Grieb said in a statement.

Chris raised nearly $40,000 as a Team Ironman Foundation athlete, helping others with special needs to reach their own goals. His race also was recorded in the Guinness World Record as the very first athlete with Down syndrome to complete the triathlon.

In the future, Chris hopes to qualify as a triathlete for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando. He posted on his Instagram after his feat, saying, “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.”

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