First person with Down’s syndrome to complete an IRONMAN®: Chris Nikic’s story
It often takes a lot of courage, determination and passion to beat a Guinness World Records title.
Chris Nikic (USA) has these qualities by the load of the bucket.
On November 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida, USA, Chris became the first person with Down’s syndrome to complete an IRONMAN® triathlon.
The IRONMAN® triathlon consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run, all of which must be completed within 17 hours.
This grueling challenge took Chris 16 hours 46 minutes 9 seconds, with the help of a guide.
At the finish line, although exhausted, Chris made sure to show his appreciation to his guide with a big hug, before meeting his father.
“Chris’s greatest achievement isn’t doing the IRONMAN® or some of the other accomplishments, it’s his tenacity to never give up. It’s his ability to stick to it every day. C ‘is her commitment to getting a little better every day and not making any excuses. Not stopping. “- Nik, Chris’s father
However, Chris, who is also a Special Olympic swimmer, has no plans to stop at just one IRONMAN®.
“I always do IRONMANs because I’m here for the ladies,” Chris joked.
Despite Chris’ current form, when he was younger, making sure he was growing healthy and strong was a real challenge for him and his family.
“Down syndrome really stunted his health and development,” Nik said.
“Chris had open heart surgery when he was five months old and he developed very slowly before and after that.”
It took a long time for Chris with many therapies to learn to walk – he was almost four years old before he could.
He also couldn’t eat healthy or solid foods until he was six, which also stunted his development.
But soon after, Chris discovered sports and developed a passion for basketball and golf. He especially enjoyed playing with other children in team sports.
“Chris believed he could do anything the other boys and girls could do. And so Chris worked hard, he improved by 1%, he did everything with a creepy smile and he had the best time . ” – Nik
“People thought there was nothing I could do. But I said ‘no! “” said Chris.
“Competitive sports are fun! Training for the IRONMAN® is really tough, but fun. Fitness is about being active,” he continued.
One day Chris decided he wanted to put his training to the test and try the IRONMAN® triathlon.
“People were very careful. A lot of people said privately that he couldn’t do it and that it was too difficult for a person with Down syndrome,” Nik said.
But Chris persevered, sure of his abilities. He trained up to eight hours a day, six days a week in preparation for IRONMAN®, aiming to improve by just 1% each day.
He eats nutritious foods to stay healthy and re-energize, but indulges himself once in a while after a long workout with a meal at Waffle House.
Nik believes Chris’s greatest achievement is his ability to make a difference to others around the world and to challenge perceptions of what a person with Down syndrome can accomplish.
“Children see me as a leader and a role model” – Chris
That’s why seeing Chris in Guinness World Records 2022 was a great moment for Nik and his wife Patty.
“Just seeing our boy in this book is just one of the greatest joys we’ve ever experienced. My boy has done amazing things and we are so proud of him.”
After breaking a record in his first IRONMAN®, appearing in the Guinness World Records, winning countless awards, medals and more, what are Chris’ plans for the future?
“My future goal is to get married, have my own business and take care of my family.”