How Chris Nikic Made History

Special Olympics athlete becomes the first person with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon
Chris Nikic standing in front of a pool in Special Olympics Training gear

As the sun barely began to rise at 5:52 am on November 7, 2020, Special Olympics Florida athlete Chris Nikic entered the water in Panama City at the start of the IRONMAN Florida triathlon. Chris was accompanied by his coach and Unified partner, Dan Grieb—the two brought together by Special Olympics Unified Sports®, where athletes with and without intellectual disabilities train and compete as teammates.

16 hours and 46 minutes later, as the darkness of night settled in, Chris made history as the first person with Down syndrome to finish a full IRONMAN race.

Chris Nikic and Dan Grieb cross the finish line at IRONMAN Florida in Panama City.
Chris Nikic and Dan Grieb cross the finish line at IRONMAN Florida in Panama City.

Chris conquered a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon run to complete the IRONMAN in a total time of 16:46:09. During the race, he suffered an attack by ants at a nutrition stop and fell off of his bike a couple of times. With blood dripping from his knee, he jumped right back on—in a show of true sportsmanship and grit.

Chris Nikic kept up a steady pace during the 112 mile bike ride despite two falls.
Chris Nikic kept up a steady pace during the 112 mile bike ride despite two falls.

Chris’ achievement landed him on the Guinness World Records list. Craig Glenday, Editor-in-Chief, watched with great joy as Chris persevered: “It's an honor to welcome Chris into the Guinness World Records fraternity as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN, and I look forward to seeing what more is in store from this remarkable young man.”

Chris, who is 21 and a recent high school graduate, is now turning his attention to qualifying for a triathlon at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

Special Olympics Florida athlete Chris Nikic makes history at IRONMAN Florida.

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