Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
May 6, 2024 ·  4 min read

Man, 23, Becomes 1st person with Down syndrome to finish Ironman World Championship

There was a point during the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona Hawaii where the wind had Chris Nikic peddling at a speed of 10 miles per hour. 23 at the time, the athlete pushed to 17 miles per hour, finishing the race in an incredible 16 hours, 31 minutes and 27 seconds.

Chris Nikic IronMan
Image Credit: Chris Nikic Instagram

This is not what caught the media’s attention at the time – what stood out was that he was the first ever person with Down Syndrome to complete the Ironman Challenge. “I actually had to ride against the wind,” Chris Nikic of Maitland, Florida,said. “The wind just attacked me at 30 miles per hour.”

They had anticipated strong winds so arrived in Kona a few weeks earlier to prepare. “We knew that problem,” he said. “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 awhile, but he figured it out.”

Source: News AU YouTube

Ironman athlete Chris had a devoted father by his side throughout training

Nik Nikic stood by his son throughout preparation for the Ironman World Championship and commented “We knew that problem.” Additionally that despite the conditions, 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.”

Read: Bullies mocked cheerleader with Down Syndrome – basketball players stopped the game to step in for her

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A post shared by Chris Nikic (@chrisnikic)

An Ironman World Championship competitor inspiring others, adjusting perspectives

Chris’ accomplishments have become a contributing inspiration to others, resetting people’s mindsets and former perceptions about 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.”

“I am an Ironman, Adidas athlete, public speaker, author, and as you can see ladies, I am adorable, single and available!” he joked, gesturing back to his lovely girlfriend Adienne. “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.”

3 steps to his goals

With a simple, yet solid plan, Ironman World Championship participant Chris explains his 3 steps to success. “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.” 

Completing the challenge was no easy feat with a 2.4mile swim in tempestuous open waters, a 112 mile bike ride and a marathon of 26.2 miles. The cut off time is 17 hours for all three phases, which ensued after 5 years of training for the Ironman.

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A post shared by Chris Nikic (@chrisnikic)

Ironman World Championship competitor Chris saw some trying times throughout preparation, falling from his bike. His father stood right by him through it all, holding him while he cried in frustration.

After a pep talk and a reminder that his girlfriend would be there, waiting for his return, he got back on and kept going. Dan Grieb, a participant in the 2020 Panama City Beach Ironman race was there as a guide for Chris.

Celebrating his Ironman World Championship achievement at the finish line

Chris handed his girlfriend Adrienne a promise ring after finishing the race, mentioning that he looks forward to more time spent with her, eating at Chipotle, the rice being his absolute favorite. “I want to know who is next,” he said.

Ironman competitor Chris wants to now take up boxing, work on his golf game and looks forward to competing in the Abbott World Marathon Majors, six marathons that include Boston, Chicago, New York City, Tokyo, Berlin and London. “The message would be simple: If they’re willing to work hard, to get 1% better, you can (achieve your dreams),” he said.

Keep Reading: Man Becomes First Graduate Of His College With Down Syndrome And Writes History


  1. Chris Nikic is 1st person with Down syndrome to finish Ironman World Championship.” Today. Megan Holohan October 11, 2022
  2. Instagram. Chris Nikic