PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A 21-year-old Florida man has made history as the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in a single day.
The Special Olympics connected Chris Nikic with Ironman competitor Dan Grieb, who helped train him.
Florida race officials required Nikic to be tethered to Grieb in the ocean Saturday for safety reasons. Grieb also rode behind Nikic on the bike course and stayed near him on the run. But Nikic did all the work on his own.
Nikic crossed the finish line in 16.46.09, according to Ironman.
“Special Olympics Florida is incredibly proud of Chris Nikic and the work he’s put in over the last few years to achieve this monumental goal,“ said Sherry Wheelock, the president and CEO of Special Olympics Florida. “Chris has become a hero to many athletes, fans and individuals across Florida and around the country. He is an inspiration to us all, and we couldn’t be prouder of his remarkable accomplishments.”
Ironman says Nikic has been training for this for years and started competing in triathlons when he was 16. He completed a practice, half-triathlon earlier this year in 8 hours, 25 minutes.
According to Ironman, Nikic works to be just 1 percent better each day and that is what helped him prepare for such an epic journey.