Chris Nikic is first man with Down syndrome to finish Ironman World Championship: 'He doesn’t quit'

Chris Nikic managed to finish the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona Hawaii in 16 hours 31 minutes and 27 seconds. The 23-year-old has now won the title of being the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman championship race. The race was grueling and the weather didn't help make things easier either. “I actually had to ride against the wind,” Chris Nikic of Maitland, Florida, told TODAY. “The wind just attacked me at 30 miles per hour.”

His father Nik Nikic helped him prepare while keeping the weather conditions in mind. “We knew that problem,” he said, adding that despite that they were determined to keep going. “We were out there … on the mountain every day for a week and a half before, practicing until he finally got it. And it took him a while, but he figured it out.”

Now, his father couldn't be more proud. “Chris is resilient. He doesn’t quit. His strength, his determination, his work ethic, and his willingness to fight through everything (keeps him competitive).” He's in awe of his son and his commitment. “He had done everything he needed to do in preparation. He never made any excuses,” Nik beamed. “He never backed down from a long training day. He just got it done, and I was just at peace knowing that he had done everything he needed to do to get ready.”

His son's accomplishments also play an important part in changing people's outdated perspective on people with Down syndrome. "Change is hard. Change is slow. We're anchored in a certain belief system around Down syndrome," he said. "But it is changing because we're seeing parents of kids with Down syndrome are not buying the narrative anymore."

In 2020, Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon. In 17 hours, competitors must run a full marathon of 26.2 miles along with a 112-mile bike ride and a 2.4-mile swim in open water. At the age of 21, while accepting the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2021 ESPY Awards, he shared, "I am an Ironman, Adidas athlete, public speaker, author, and as you can see ladies, I am adorable, single and available!" he joked, according to PEOPLE. Although do note, he's currently off the singles market and is dating his lovely girlfriend Adrienne.

"People ask, how did I overcome so many obstacles?" he continued. "Easy. I just got one percent better every day. Three years ago, I was 18, overweight, out of shape, excluded, and isolated. But my dream was to be like you, to be included, to be independent, and to marry an amazing woman like my mom." He follows a three-step plan to achieve his goals, which is. "1. Get one percent better every day. 2. I work hard and 3. As Jimmy V said, 'Don't give up... Don't ever give up,'" he explained. "It's easy to make excuses and quit. I don't do excuses, and I don't quit... because my dream is bigger than my pain."

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