Chris Nikic can swim, bike, and run just like the rest of us, but he is one unique guy. This past Saturday he became the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete a 70.3 race. So awesome!!! Now he has the goal of finishing IRONMAN Florida later this year.
How 20-year-old Chris Nikic is breaking down barriers
From USA Triathlon
By Emily Randolph
To watch Chris Nikic compete in a triathlon is a heartwarming and encouraging experience.
The 20-year-old with Down syndrome loves the swim and enjoys the final sprint to the finish line and into his parent’s arms.
But his favorite part? His ritual?
Well, that’s all the hugs he stops to give spectators, fellow race participants and his family. There’s no stopping him in it — he sneaks in as many hugs as he can get.
“I like to be around people and encourage them,” Chris said.
He just loves people, and it makes him feel good to go and give them a big hug. It’s the natural thing for him to do, and he loves the reaction people give him – how much they enjoy it.
Chris is just an all-around happy guy. He laughs at everything, even his coach yelling at him, and his joy is contagious.
“It’s hard to yell at him when he is laughing and having so much fun,” his father, Nik Nikic, said. “He brings sunshine to a room.”
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 triathlon, too.
Chris has completed six sprint triathlons and one Olympic-distance race. The Challenge Daytona was his favorite.
He started competing in triathlons when he was 16, but lost two years due to ear surgeries, and when he came back to the sport a year ago, he was barely able to swim a lap in a pool, could barely run 100 yards, and had a hard time riding his bike.
“He’s gone from barely being able to do anything,” Nikic said, “to running an Olympic-distance triathlon.”
His goal now? To complete an IRONMAN.
Chris is using triathlon and IRONMAN training as a path to independent living. The sport is a vehicle to challenge him to learn to be the best he can be. Multisport, in its nature, helps Chris with learning and keeps him from getting bored. It is believed Chris would be the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN.
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