First man with Down syndrome completes Ironman triathlon
Chris Nikic is a very special athlete. Although the 21-year-old was born with Down syndrome, he has now mastered the toughest triathlon in the world. A feat that even earned him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
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Chris Nikic was born on June 10, 1999 with Down syndrome. The doctors tell the boy’s parents shortly after he is born that he will face a life in a wheelchair. A prognosis that father Nik Nikic and especially Chris himself simply cannot come to terms with. And so, contrary to all expectations, Chris learns to run at the age of three and proves to all doubters for the first time that one should never underestimate his strong will.
“When he was born, they told us that he would never be able to tie his own shoes,” recalls his father Nik in an interview.
Chris grows up in a sports-loving family and adores his big sister Jacky, who introduces her little brother to her favorite sport, basketball, and repeatedly encourages him to surpass himself. Together with his father Nik, Chris finally started training for smaller marathons in November 2019 and soon brought home the first medals.
“I started doing a push-up, a sit-up, and a squat in November 2019. I’m now at 124! ”The 21-year-old proudly reveals in an interview.
And Nik is also incredibly proud of his son, who, despite all predictions, has developed into a real sports ace, and reveals in an interview what big goal his son Chris has set for the future:
“Chris has gone from a fragile child with Down syndrome who was constantly ill and whom we had to protect, to someone who will soon be competing in an Ironman.”
But for Chris this endeavor is a particularly big challenge, because the 21-year-old also suffers from hypotonia, a lack of muscle strength and muscle tension. So Chris has to train much harder to pass the infamous and feared Ironman triathlon of over 226 kilometers. He trains three hours a day, six days a week – always with the goal of becoming an Ironman in mind.
On November 9th, 2020, exactly one year after starting his training, Chris will be the first participant with Down syndrome at the Ironman Florida. To pass the triathlon, he must cover a distance of 226 kilometers within 17 hours on foot, by bike and in the water. A challenge that pushes even the strongest athletes in the world to their limits, but Chris doesn’t let that intimidate him. After 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds, he passed the finish line and was duly celebrated for this masterpiece by his family, spectators and other participants.
“It is my job to prove that a person with Down syndrome is capable of mastering any challenge,” the newborn Ironman confidently explains in an interview.
And Chris can also be self-confident, because nobody will imitate him that quickly. Having passed the Ironman triathlon, the 21-year-old not only has one more significant medal in the showcase, he also set a Guinness world record by the way: as the first person with Down syndrome to successfully complete an Ironman triathlon . But much more important to Chris is that he was able to show the whole world what people with Down syndrome are actually capable of and that they should never be underestimated.
Chris Nikic made sports history and proved that you can do anything if you believe in yourself hard enough and are willing to work hard on yourself every day.
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Thumbnail: © Instagram / chrisnikic