Meet the first person with Down syndrome to finish Ironman Triathlon

Meet Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman Triathlon. First Bike Ride interviewed the inspiring 21-year-old American athlete to talk a bit about his cycling journey and to encourage more people to ride a bicycle.

On November 7, Chris overcame an amazing feat – he completed a 2.4-mile open-water swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in less than 17 hours. It’s 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds to be exact.

“I had a big dream to live independently, buy my own car, house and get married and doing an Ironman gives me the opportunity to do all that,” Chris told First Bike Ride.

Ironman is considered as one of the toughest triathlons in the world. He was recognized by Guinness World Records as the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon. He completed it in Panama Beach in Florida, USA.

This race did not become easy for Chris. He fell many times off his bicycle, got bitten by ants during a nutrition break and continued the race with a wounded knee. The challenge was to complete the race in 17 hours, he did it 14 minutes before the cut off.

The training wasn’t easy either. The road to Ironman started during the last day of 2019. He had to be focused to reach his goal and eventually managed to eliminate all of his distractions in the middle of his journey: school, parties and movies.

“Some people stayed home. I went out to chase my dreams and goals,” he wrote on an Instagram post.

First Bike Ride asked Chris about the biggest lesson he learned from this experience.

“That I can do anything if I am willing to work hard enough and keep getting 1% better every day,” he said. “It takes me longer, but it is possible.”

Get 1% better every day. That’s Chris’ motto that kept him motivated in preparation for Ironman.

Chris first learned to cycle through a bicycle camp and then with the help of his parents. He wanted to ride a bike like everyone else, he told us. “It just took me so much longer to learn,” he noted. Getting on a bicycle for Chris is not just about training and the race, he enjoys leisure trips too like all of us.

“My dad and my friends like to go on a bike trail and just ride for fun, then go for lunch. Riding a bike is amazing,” he told us.

Chris is an inspiration. He said that if he can finish Ironman, imagine what you can do. He plans to do the triathlon again next year. His motivation of getting 1% better everyday stays.

“When you ride a bike, you become part of a group of friends and the community. It is a wonderful way to get in shape, make friends and have fun,” Chris said as we end our conversation.

Photo from Chris Nikic.

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