Triathlon teaches us that we are stronger than we know, and Chris Nikic is a living embodiment of that strength.
Saturday night, Nikic — a 21-year-old Florida native — made history as the first person with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon, conquering IRONMAN Florida in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds.
Nikic completed the standard IRONMAN distance of a 2.4-mile open water swim, an 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, beating the designated 17-hour cutoff. He crossed the finish line with his guide and coach, Dan Grieb, greeted in person by cheers and the legendary words of IRONMAN announcer Mike Reilly shouting, "You are an IRONMAN!"
Online, millions more people tuned in throughout the weekend to watch Nikic’s final miles of the race via IRONMAN's Facebook Live, as his story captured the hearts of people not just in the U.S. but all over the world.
The performance cemented Nikic’s place in triathlon history and forever earned him the title of IRONMAN. He also showed us triathlon truly is a sport for everyone, a core pillar of USA Triathlon’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access initiative.
For Nikic, his amazing accomplishment has been a journey years in the making. It's a testament to the hours of work he's put in every day while preparing for the challenge, and an example of his personal mantra to "Get one percent better every day."
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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 www.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
We first shared his inspiring story with you back in January. Nikic is an overall happy guy, who's described by his father, Nik, as someone who "brings sunshine to a room."
Nikic started competing in triathlons when he was 16, and the multisport community has adopted him into the family. Triathlon has allowed him to be part of a group, make friends and show off his competitive spirit.
Since we caught up with him in January, he completed his first half IRONMAN in May in Florida.
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He did it! Congratulations to Chris Nikic for completing his own IRONMAN 70.3 over the weekend in Florida! 💪⠀ ⠀ What an awesome step in his journey to becoming the first person with Down Syndrome to finish an IRONMAN. Nice job, Chris! 👏👏⠀ ⠀ #Triathlon #Triathlete #Ironman #Inspiration #DownSyndrome
Now, he's doubled the distance and conquered one of endurance sport's most difficult challenges.
This year has been difficult for so many — a year full of angst, grief and division. But Saturday night, at least for a moment, people from around the world came together to celebrate a person whose impact has gone far beyond the triathlon community.
Nikic has proven that no hurdle or disability should ever make us question our ability to accomplish the impossible.
Inspired by Chris Nikic's incredible IRONMAN journey? Know that triathlon is a sport for everyone, as well as an active and healthy lifestyle that helps ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. If you'd like to learn more about the sport and start your own triathlon journey, head to MyTimeToTri.com where you'll find beginner tips from experts and a training plan personalized for you.