He completed the championship in 16 hours 31 minutes and 27 seconds, braving against all odds.
Around two years ago, Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman Triathlon, held in Florida. Now, he becomes the first person with Down Syndrome to complete the Ironman World Championship, in 16 hours 31 minutes and 27 seconds. While the athlete's father, Nik Nikic watched his son go around 10 miles per hour on his bicycle, he was scared Chris wouldn’t be able to finish but he soon increased his speed to 17 miles per hour and promptly reached the milestone.
“I actually had to ride against the wind,” Chris of Maitland, Florida, told TODAY. “The wind just attacked me at 30 miles per hour.” His father had accounted for the wind to be a challenge so the duo arrived in Kona, Hawaii - where the world championship was held - a few weeks earlier to train for the challenge.
“We knew that problem,” Nik explained. “We were out there … on the mountain every day for a week and a half before, practicing until he finally got it. And it took him a while, but he figured it out.” This training became one of the reasons Chris was able to finish the race. “He picked it up and got back up to about 17 miles per hour, and he was able to make up time,” Nik said.
For Chris, there may be different challenges that have the potential to become a roadblock. It is at this point that Chris’ father becomes an integral part of his training. “Everything we believe is going to be a challenge for him, we isolate and then we explain it to him, and we go together and break it down, and we just practice over and over until his subconscious mind gets used to it,” Nik said. “He doesn’t panic when it happens. He can deal with it.”
Since Chris was actively making history, the proud father gushed about him. “Chris is resilient. He doesn’t quit,” his dad said. “His strength, his determination, his work ethic, and his willingness to fight through everything (keeps him competitive).”
This is Chris Nikic.— Goodable (@Goodable) October 10, 2022
He was born with Down syndrome and wasn't able to walk until he was four years old.
He just became the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman World Championship.
Nothing is impossible!pic.twitter.com/kDGBaD1Bys
In 2021, he was awarded the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPY Awards, PEOPLE reported. “I am an Ironman, Adidas athlete, public speaker, author, and as you can see ladies, I am adorable, single, and available!” Chris told the crowd as he kicked off his acceptance speech jokingly. “People ask, how did I overcome so many obstacles?” he continued. “Easy. I just got one percent better every day. Three years ago, I was 18, overweight, out of shape, excluded, and isolated. But my dream was to be like you, to be included, to be independent, and to marry an amazing woman like my mom.”
Now, Chris has a beautiful girlfriend Adrienne to whom he gave a promise ring and is working with a guide, Dan Grieb, every day, to become one percent better, as he said. “He had done everything he needed to do in preparation. He never made any excuses,” Nik said. “He never backed down from a long training day. He just got it done, and I was just at peace knowing that he had done everything he needed to do to get ready.”
Chris’ story is one of inspiration and perseverance. “Change is hard. Change is slow. We're anchored in a certain belief system around Down syndrome,” Nik said. “But it is changing because we're seeing parents of kids with Down syndrome are not buying the narrative anymore.” When asked to send a message to others inspired by him, Chris said, “The message would be simple: If they’re willing to work hard, to get 1% better, you can (achieve your dreams).”
Cover Image Source: Instagram/@chrisnikic