Athlete Trains to Be First Person with Down Syndrome to Complete Ironman

Chris Nikic biking at a competition.
Chris Nikic, Special Olympics Florida, is training for his first Ironman competitions.
Chris swings a golf club.
Chris first joined Special Olympics as a golfer.

Chris Nikic, a Special Olympics Florida athlete who has Down syndrome, competes in golf, swimming, track, basketball and triathlons. With the obstacles Chris has had to face, including open-heart surgery, he knows what it means to push past challenges in order to compete at your highest level.

Chris now has his sights set on competing in several Ironman challenges from May through October 2020. He is currently training to be the first Ironman with Down syndrome. Having already completed an Olympic-distance triathlon, he is using his Ironman training as part of his path to living independently.

Chris first joined Special Olympics when he was nine years old as a golfer. “We lived in a golf community and it was a fun thing to do with friends each week,” he recalls. In fact, his most fond memory of competing at a Special Olympics event was when he played golf at the Florida State Games. Golf is his favorite sport, though he confesses, “For me, I love all the sporting events. But it's not the events but the social part—being with friends and going to the dance afterward.”

Chris’ love for every aspect of sports—training, competing, setting goals and achieving them—has led him to become a motivational speaker and to be featured on the USA Triathlon website in January.

Excerpt from How 20-year-old Chris Nikic is breaking down barriers, USA Triathlon


“Triathlon has allowed Chris, a Florida native, to be a part of a group and display his competitiveness. He’s no longer isolated. He’s a triathlete and he wants to beat his friends, just like the rest of us.

After seeing Chris at races, people have rallied around his inspiration because they have a friend or family member with Down syndrome. He is now part of the triathlon community and has inspired more people like him to start.

“You can do things you never thought possible,” said Chris, who wants to show fellow Down syndrome community members they can do a triathlon, too."

To read the full article, click here.

Chris trains five to six days each week. He practices by himself, with his coaches and trainers, and with his family. His plan for success includes working hard, measuring everything in his training and improving by 1% each day. If you do the math, that means he’ll be 100% better in just four months!

Check out this speech Chris gave on his 1% philosophy given at the HMH National Sales Conference in 2019.

MUST WATCH!! Motivational Speech 1% Better - Chris Nikic

Chris reminds us that “we all have limitations, but we can all work harder and get better.”

Come back to this website on April 2 to hear from Chris and his coach on how they are training for the Ironman competition in early May. If the competition is rescheduled because of the Covid-19 virus, his coach says Chris will complete a practice event much like the real competition to help him prepare for future Ironman challenges later in the year.

Sign the #InclusionRevolution pledge and see what our athletes, like Chris, can do!

Make a Difference
Please donate and help us get one more athlete onto the playing field.
Donation Amount
Monthly Recurring
Recommended Content
Michael and Jonah Hambleton standing with their arms around one another both with credentials around their necks.
Micah Hambleton, 16, from the United Arab Emirates, won a gold medal in the Special Olympics Division 1 category at the Daman World Triathlon Abu Dhabi 2019.
1 Min Read
Ben from team US standing in front of other athletes, spectators, and fans smiling for a photo op.
People with intellectual disabilities (ID) are accomplishing more than anyone ever thought possible, as Special Olympics athletes prove every day around the world.
3 Min Read
Four young men preparing to race down a track.
Adonis Lutumba Nyemba was born in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 27 April 1996. Adonis was a healthy child until the age of three....
1 Min Read