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First athlete with Down syndrome completes Ironman triathlon

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Michael Reaves/Getty Images for IRONMANBy GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News

(PANAMA CITY, Fla.) — It’s a feat few people will ever achieve: finishing the Ironman.

For Chris Nikic, who didn’t walk until he was 4 years old, the Ironman may have, at one time, seemed like an impossibility.

But, for Nikic, who has Down syndrome, anything is possible. Even an Ironman. He completed the 2.4-mile swim, the 112-mile bike ride and the 26.2-mile run on Saturday at the Panama City, Florida, event. The Ironman organization updated it’s social media all day with Nikic’s progress and time splits, a livestream of the last two miles and a celebratory post upon his finish. It read:


“Congratulations Chris on becoming the first person with Down syndrome to finish an IRONMAN. You have shattered barriers while proving without a doubt that Anything is Possible!

“We are beyond inspired, and your accomplishment is a defining moment in IRONMAN history that can never be taken away from you. You swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran 26.2 miles and now you get to brag for the rest of your life.

“The opportunities you have created for others around the world through this journey you embarked upon, is immeasurable. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your remarkable life story and we can’t wait to see what you achieve next.

The entire IRONMAN `Ohana

#onepercentbetter #anythingispossible”

The #onepercentbetter refers to a philosophy adopted by Nikic and his dad, Nik Nikic, to get one percent better every day.

Nikic finished the race with just 14 minutes to spare to make the 17-hour cutoff time.

Now that he’s achieved his Ironman goal, Nikic is ready to move onto his next accomplishment.

Nikic is a Special Olympics athlete. In a press release, the organization said, “During the race, Chris suffered an attack by ants during a nutrition stop and fell off of his bike a couple of times. With blood dripping from his knee, he jumped right back on in a show of true sportsmanship and grit.”

The newly minted Ironman has also been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. “It’s an honor to welcome Chris into the Guinness World Records fraternity as the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman and I look forward to seeing what more is in store from this remarkable young man,” said Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday.

The Ironman organization said that Nikic used the the 42-year-old event and it’s Ironman Foundation as a way to raise money for causes he is passionate about. He’s raised nearly $40,000 so far.

“We are extremely honored and proud that Chris chose Ironman as his vehicle to prove that anything is possible. His journey has inspired so many and reminded us of the power and resiliency of the human spirit,” said Andrew Messick, president and CEO of The Ironman Group.

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