Signing up for any race, whether it’s a 5k or a marathon, requires both mental and physical preparation. Training is often physically uncomfortable, and it takes a huge amount of perseverance and dedication to make it to the day of the race. For people without physical limitations, it’s a difficult and admirable pursuit. But when you’re pushing through additional physical barriers, the accomplishment is even sweeter. Not even necessarily because it’s more challenging physically, but because there’s a high likelihood you’ve been told that you can’t. You were told it was impossible, but you did it anyway.
The Ironman Triathlon is a race far beyond most of our physical capabilities. Even for people who consider themselves fairly fit, the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride, and 26.22-mile run (yes, after you’ve completed the swim and bike ride, you have to run a full marathon. All in one day) would require a huge amount of training. Chris Nikic, a 21-year-old from Florida, made history this week. He trained and pushed and persevered just like any other athlete – because of his incredibly hard work, Nikic is officially the first person with down syndrome to complete the Ironman Triathlon.
This is Chris Nikic.
He’s 21-years old and has Down Syndrome.
He just became the first ever athlete with Down Syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathlon.
This is the moment he crossed the finish line.
— Rex Chapman🏇🏼 (@RexChapman) November 10, 2020
Completing the arduous race was a long-time dream of Nikic, and he knew the only way to get there was to start working. Dan Grieb, an Ironman competitor, was paired with Nikic by the Special Olympics to help with his training. The athletes trained together, motivated each other, and on November 7, completed the triathlon side by side.
Reflecting on his accomplishment, Nikic tweeted, “A year ago I wrote ‘Chris World Champ’. Anything is Possible.”
A year ago I wrote “Chris World Champ”. Anything is Possible. https://t.co/iaU2qOmOcq
— Chris Nikic (@ChrisNikic) November 8, 2020
As he crossed the finish line wearing a shirt that read “1% Better Every Day,” Nikic truly embodied the words “anything is possible.” He completed the Ironman Triathlon in 16 hours, 46 minutes, and 9 seconds. He set a Guinness World Record. He made history. But before Nikic even began working towards his lofty and admirable goal, he had some hurdles to overcome that most of us never have to face.
“From the time he was born, we were told by everyone that he’d never do anything or amount to anything or be able to accomplish anything [beyond] being able to tie his own shoes,” Nikic’s dad told Orlando Sentinel. “And we believed them for the longest time.”
Sadly, those with disabilities are told so often that they can’t. Rather than setting their own limitations, they may be told their limitations. With the support of his friends, family, and fellow athletes, Nikic set out to prove that whatever it is you think you can’t do, you’re wrong. If you put in the work, as he did, anything really is possible.
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Mom was too sick to make it to Ironman so today was Special because I promised her my first Ironman medal. Thanks mom for 18 years of therapies. Then mom took me to the Doctor to help with all my battle wounds. Then she hit me P.F. Chang’s. Great to be home. Now I need a wife as special and amazing as my mom. Please go to my website if you want to learn more about how I used 1% Better to become an Ironman. Chrisnikic.com