Chris Nikic Became The First Person With Down’s Syndrome To Finish An Ironman Triathlon, Sets Eyes On Special Olympics

IRONMAN Chris Nikic Downs Syndrome

A Florida triathlete became the first person with Down’s syndrome to complete an Ironman event on Sunday, swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and running a full 26.2-mile marathon to end the day. 21-year-old Chris Nikic finished just under the official cut-off time in 16 hours, 46 minutes and nine seconds.

Never in Ironman’s 42-year history has an athlete with Down’s syndrome even attempted an event, let alone completed one. His journey started three years ago when his father noticed that he was becoming less active. Nik Nikic challenged his son to become 1 percent more fit with each day.

The training began with a single push-up and ended with his incredible feat over the weekend. His triathlon attempt began at 7:25 a.m. EST in Panama City Beach, Fla. with the swim portion of the event. Nikic was assisted by guides throughout the day.

He completed the 2.4-mile swim in one hour and 55 minutes and hopped on his bike for the longest section of the day. 112 miles later, Nikic finished the ride in just over eight hours, setting him up to run a marathon in about 6.5 hours. He suffered a minor bike crash early on in the day but didn’t let his fall or the scrapes on his knees break his spirit.

As he geared up for the final push, the most heartstring-tugging moment of the day came while his father laced up his running shoes. The proud dad’s voice breaks with pride as he says “you are almost an Ironman buddy. You’re two thirds of an Ironman.”

He started slow on the run and paced just over 16 minutes per mile, but picked up the pace on the final stretch and split his last few miles around 14 minutes. His final kick helped him cross the finish line before his 10:52 p.m. cutoff time, making history.

After accomplishing his first goal, Nikic has his eyes set on competing in the 2022 Special Olympics, which will take place in Florida,