Incredible 21-Year-Old Becomes First Person with Down Syndrome to Complete an Ironman Triathlon

“It’s about being an example to other kids and families that face similar barriers, proving no dream or goal is too high.”

Chris Nikic Ironman
Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images for IRONMAN

Chris Nikic, a 21-year-old recent high school graduate from Maitland, Florida, made history last weekend. On Saturday, Chris became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full-distance Ironman triathlon, setting a new Guinness World Record and proving to us all that anything is possible.

Chris embarked on his Ironman journey with a two-loop swim around Russell-Fields Pier outside Panama City Beach's Pier Park just before dawn. Brimming with enthusiasm, he exited the water completing the 2.4-mile swim in 1:54:39 and headed to transition before taking off on the 112-bike course. Despite fire ant bites and some cuts on his leg from a bike spill, Chris pushed on, completing the bike course in 8:12:37. He dug deep for his final leg and finished the 26.2 marathon run in 6:18:48.

Chris Nikic Ironman
Michael Reaves/Getty Images for IRONMAN

"To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory," Chris' father Nik Nikic said in a statement. "Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion, normalcy, and leadership. It's about being an example to other kids and families that face similar barriers, proving no dream or goal is too high."

After seeing his son undergo four surgeries and become increasingly sedentary at the age of 18, Nik encouraged Chris through a principle he created initially for his workplace: to be 1% better every day. For Chris, this journey to Ironman started with just one push up.

"I'm no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognize who Chris is; a human being that has goals and dreams just like everyone else. He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead," said Dan Grieb, Chris's guide and coach.

In collaboration with the Ironman Foundation, Chris has raised nearly $40,000 to date with 100% of funds going to causes that help others with special needs achieve their dreams.

WATCH: Meet the Alabama Teen with Down Syndrome Who Is the CEO of an Ice Cream Truck

In the 42-year history of Ironman, Chris is the first person with Down syndrome to even sign up for the event.

"We are extremely honored and proud that Chris chose Ironman as his vehicle to prove that Anything is Possible. His journey has inspired so many and reminded us of the power and resiliency of the human spirit," Andrew Messick, President & CEO of The Ironman Group, said in a statement.

Congratulations on an incredible achievement, Chris!

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