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Triathlete makes history as the first with Down Syndrome to finish a full Ironman

By Bim Santos Published Nov 09, 2020 4:15 pm

Chris Nikic already made history when he toed the line at Ironman Florida by being the first athlete with Down Syndrome to compete in a full Ironman, where athletes need to finish a punishing 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run course within a tight 17-hour time limit.

Showing up was already half the battle. It takes guts of steel and utmost physical preparation for any athlete to show up at the start line and brave all that the course will throw at the triathlete — the brutal physical toll, the consuming mental fatigue, and even the unknown variables on race day that could mess up anyone’s performance.

Chris Nikic makes history as the first triathlete with Down Syndrome to finish the full Ironman (photo from @ironmantri)
Chris Nikic makes history as the first triathlete with Down Syndrome to finish the full Ironman (photo from @ironmantri) 

But less than 17 hours after, Nikic got the whole job done, cemented his place in history, and further redefined notions of what the human body could possibly achieve.

The 21-year-old, who was saddled with various disabilities at a young age, conquered the full Ironman race course with a time of 16:46:09.

In a statement on social media, the Ironman race organization congratulated Chris for the outstanding feat he pulled off.

“We are beyond inspired, and your accomplishment is a defining moment in IRONMAN history that can never be taken away from you,” the organization said in part in a post.

Besides being tethered to his partner, Chris abided by the same set of rules as other triathletes and similarly competed to finish within the same 17-hour cutoff time.

Chris’s father said in an interview that they started training for the race just to help him keep in shape after gaining weight off a string of operations.

To help his body better acclimate to the growing demands of training, his father adopted the '1% philosophy,' where they just tried to be 1% better today than yesterday, each and every day.

Aside from the usual challenging grind of training for a full Ironman, Chris also grappled with a unique set of challenges as no one with Special Syndrome has ever embarked on the road he took, meaning his team was not sure how his body would react as they tried to increase the training mileage.

To help his body better acclimate to the growing demands of training, his father adopted the “1% philosophy,” where they just tried to be 1% better today than yesterday, each and every day.

Chris said in an interview that he wants to serve as an inspiration to others.

“I can be an inspiration to the kids, when the kids see me, they can say to their parents they want to be like me,” said Chris.