NewsPinellas County


Florida athlete strives to be the first person with down syndrome to complete an ironman

Posted at 5:48 PM, Oct 29, 2020

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — A Central Florida man is on a mission to do something nobody else has ever done: become the first person with down syndrome to complete a full ironman.

Chris Nikic has become an inspiration to people across the world and it started with a simple mission.

Nik Nikic encouraged his son to push himself 1% more day after day.

“We came up with this concept of just get a little better today than yesterday,” Nik explained.

Now, 21-year-old Chris is about to do something incredible. On November 7, he’ll swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run a 26.2-mile marathon in Panama City Beach.

“I want to inspire others so that they can be like me and so that one day they can do it too,” Chris said with a smile.

If he completes the race within 17 hours, Chris will be the first person with down syndrome to ever finish an ironman.

He also has a message for the other competitors: “You better watch out because I’m going to beat you!”

“Really, you’re going to beat all of them?” his dad asked.

“Yeah!” Chris answered enthusiastically.

Chris has spent several months swimming off the coast of Pinellas County as he trains with coach Dan Grieb for the big race and gets used to the choppy Gulf of Mexico waters.

“I’ve learned that you can teach anybody anything if you’re willing to love them through their disability or love them through their struggle,” Grieb added.

Chris has been documenting his journey on social media. Thousands of people all across the world have sent him messages of support, including many parents of children with down syndrome who say Chris is motivating their kids to also strive for excellence.

“They say I’m their hero,” Chris added.

Chris is already brainstorming his next target: Competing in the 2022 Special Olympics and finding a special someone to share all these accomplishments with.

“I want to get married. I’m not waiting anymore. I want to find a hot blonde,” he said with a hearty chuckle.

Shane Facteau says Chris will join a long list of incredible people to finish the race including the oldest finisher, 85-year-old Hiromu Inada.

“Chris is joining a long lineage of very interesting and unique people who have challenged themselves,” Facteau said.

“It’s really helped me learn that some of the greatest among us are people that we label with words like disability,” Grieb added.

Chris says he continues to strive for excellence by never quitting, overcoming his fears and smiling all along the way. He also has an impeccable sense of humor. For example, he says running is his favorite of the three activities, “because it makes my butt cute and the ladies like that!”