Man From Florida Becomes First Person With Down Syndrome To Complete Ironman Triathlon

by : Emily Brown on : 08 Nov 2020 16:40
Man Becomes First Person With Down Syndrome To Complete Ironman TriathlonChris Nikic/Instagram

A 21-year-old became the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon when he crossed the finish line this weekend. 

Chris Nikic, from Florida, had been training for years to achieve his goal of completing an Ironman, in which participants must complete a 2.4-mile swim in open water, a 112-mile bike ride and run a full marathon – all under 17 hours.


During his training he focused on incremental growth, slowly increasing his performance until he was ready to take on the whole challenge yesterday, November 7.

See Nikic take on the triathlon below:

Ahead of the race, Nikic told TODAY he was ‘going to make history by crushing it’, and that’s exactly what he did. Organisers for the Ironman said Nikic is the first person with Down syndrome to even attempt the race, and he completed it in 16 hours, 46 minutes.


The Special Olympics connected Nikic with 16-time Ironman competitor Dan Grieb, who helped train him for his challenge.

Together, the pair worked up to six hours a day, six times a week, and Nikic found ways to adjust to any physical limitations, for example by riding a flat handlebar bike and not clipping in to prevent possible falls, Triathlete reports.


Florida race officials required that Grieb be tethered to Nikic in the ocean, to ride behind him during the bike ride and to stay near him on the run.

Grieb admitted that he felt ‘pressure’ to have a positive influence on Nikic’s performance, but said that he believed ‘God specifically elected me for this young man and his family’.

Man becomes first person with Down Syndrome to complete IronmanMarathonWorld.it/YouTube

Nikic held his hands up in celebration as he crossed the finish line, before hugging his guide and those there to support him. His favourite part of the challenge is the run, in part because it ‘makes [his] butt cute and the ladies love it’.


Nikic’s dad, Nik, discussed how he and his wife support their son to help him achieve his dreams, saying that the ‘most important thing’ is that Nikic is ‘included’ and has ‘a sense of purpose’.

Speaking ahead of the race, Nik added:

When your child is born with Down syndrome everyone tells you what they can’t do and how tough it is going to be… Chris is going to prove if he can do an Ironman and he can do anything else.

Being first opens a lot of doors for him and people like him.

Man becomes first person with Down Syndrome to complete IronmanMarathonWorld.it/YouTube

As news about Nikic’s decision to take on the Ironman began to spread, he found that parents started to reach out to him and tell him that he is a ‘hero to their kids’.

With the Florida race complete, Nikic is now focused on taking part in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii next year.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Life, Florida, Now


MarathonWorld.it/YouTube and 2 others
  1. MarathonWorld.it/YouTube

    Chris Nikic: the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman

  2. TODAY

    'I am going to make history': Man vows to become 1st Ironman finisher with Down syndrome

  3. Triathlete

    Chris Nikic Aims To Be First Person With Down Syndrome to Complete an Ironman