Chris Nikic Completes an Ironman Triathlon with Down Syndrome


Courtesy of Chris Nikic

Chris Nikic competed in the Ironman Florida Triathlon in Panama City. He made history by becoming the first person with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.

Danielle Huizar, Photojournalist

An Ironman Triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 26.2-mile run, and a 112-mile bike ride ( Looking at those numbers, most people would be astonished and impressed that people would be able to complete this event. With multiple odds stacked against him, Chris Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete this challenging athletic competition. Down Syndrome is a condition where a person is born with an extra chromosome, altering the development of that person and some characteristics. Although Down Syndrome affects diagnosed individuals differently, some common characteristics for someone with Down Syndrome include a flattened face, small head, short neck, mild-to-moderate cognitive impairment, and delayed language (


As a child, Nikic “always felt isolated, left out, excluded,” and to combat these negative emotions, he found enjoyment in sports and athletics. When he was a teenager, he was playing multiple sports for the Special Olympics including sprints, basketball, and swimming. Later in his athletic career, taking 6 months to go 100 feet, he found it difficult to bike at first, but after he learned how to bike, he found a passion for biking as well. In October of 2019, he wanted to compete in an Ironman triathlon, and through the help of Dan Grieb, a volunteer coach, and a group of individuals also wanting to compete in this event, he started intense training. Training for Nikic consisted of 100-mile bike rides, 20-mile runs, and multiple swimming sessions. Leading up to the race, Nikic aimed to finish in under 17 hours.


The Ironman Triathlon Nikic was competing in was in Panama City, Florida on November 7th, 2020. While not having that much difficulty during the first event, the 2.4-mile swim, Nikic faced trouble during mile 22 of the 112-mile bike ride. Unfortunately, he encountered a hill of red ants that started biting his ankles, but he continued going relatively steadily until mile 10 of the last portion of the Ironman, the marathon, a 26.2-mile run. Having the urge to give up, Nikic slowed down noticeably, but when his father Nik Nikic asked him if he was “going to let pain win, or let [his] dreams win,” Chris Nikic responded saying that his “dreams are going to win (


Nikic completed the Ironman in 16 hours and 46 minutes and surpassed his goal. On Nikic’s Instagram (@chrisnikic on Instagram), he states that it’s “time to set a new and bigger goal for 2021.” With a “1% better everyday mentality,” he is hoping to compete in the Hawaii Ironman and working towards the 2022 Special Olympics. He also emphasizes spreading awareness for Down Syndrome stating that if you visit his website ( and donate, all the proceeds will go to his charities; he says that he “achieved [his] goal and now [he] wants to help others like [him].”

ESPN, Guinness World Records, and multiple other people and outlets recognized Nikic’s historic feat ( Chris Yach (11), a student at Yorba Linda High School, believes that it is “impressive that Nikic was able to do this,” and he feels that it is “inspiring for those with Down Syndrome.” Nikic is a perfect example of the importance of perseverance, dedication, and determination. He proved that with those ideals anyone can achieve anything no matter what impediments you may have working against you.