A 21-year-old with Down syndrome successfully completed the Ironman in the US – and is now in the history books. It took him nearly 17 hours for the three sports categories.

Chris Nikic did and, according to organizers, was the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman. The 21-year-old American crossed the finish line in Panama Beach City, Florida on the night from Saturday to Sunday, with his hands up and cheering. For the 3.86km swim, 180.2km bike and 42.2km run at Ironman Florida, Nikic unofficially needed 16:49:09 hours.

“I got goosebumps, so incredibly inspiring”

While swimming and running, he and his trainer Daniel Grieb were tied with a belt. They hugged each other at the finish. “Chris Nikic made history tonight,” said organizer Ironman on his Facebook page. “I have goosebumps, so incredibly inspiring,” wrote the 37-year-old Ironman World Cup fifth in 2019, Cameron Wurf (37) from Australia.

It was not until he was four years old that Chris Nikic was able to walk without a walker, his muscle strength and muscle tone were not expressed like in people without Down syndrome. Four years ago he had to undergo four ear operations. If he can handle an Ironman, he can handle everything else in life, according to the credo of the 21-year-old from Maitland.

In the first half of the year, after canceling a race over half the Ironman distance, he had completed an improvised race of 1.9km swimming, 90km cycling and 21.1km running. At Ironman Florida, he was not stopped by a fall with the bike and a slightly bleeding knee and an ant bite. “Giving up is not an option for Chris,” said his coach before the race.

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