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."
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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.
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.
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