first person with downs syndrome to complete an ironman

It often takes a lot of grit, determination and passion to break a Guinness World Records title. 

Chris Nikic (USA) has these qualities by the bucket load. 

On 7 November 2020, at Panama City Beach, Florida, USA, Chris became the first person with Down's syndrome to complete an IRONMAN® triathlon.

The IRONMAN® triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run, all of which has to be done within a 17-hour timeframe. 

This gruelling challenge took Chris 16 hours 46 minutes 9 seconds to complete, with the assistance of a guide. 

IRONMAN credit First person with Downs syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon Chris crossing the finish line

At the finish line, although exhausted, Chris made sure to show his guide his appreciation with a big hug, before going on to meet his dad.

"Chris’s greatest achievement is not having done the IRONMAN® or some of the other achievements, it’s his tenacity to never quit. It’s his ability to stick with it every day. It’s his commitment to getting a little bit better every single day and not making any excuses. Not quitting." – Nik, Chris’s dad

However, Chris, who is also a Special Olympic swimmer, doesn’t intent to stop at just one IRONMAN®. 

"I’m still doing IRONMANs because I’m here for the ladies," Chris joked. 

IRONMAN credit Chris receiving his IRNOMAN medal

Despite how fit Chris is now, when he was younger, ensuring he became healthy and strong were real challenges for him and his family. 

"The Down’s Syndrome really delayed his health and development," Nik said. 

"Chris had open heart surgery when he was five months old and he developed very slowly before and after that."

It took Chris a long time with lots of therapies to learn how to walk -  he was almost four before he could.

He also couldn’t eat healthy or solid foods until he was six,  which delayed his development too. 

But soon after, Chris discovered sports, and found his passions in basketball and golf. He especially loved playing with the other kids in team sports. 

"Chris believed he could do anything any of the other boys and girls could do. And so Chris worked hard, he got 1% better, he did everything with a freaking smile and he had the best time." - Nik

"People thought that I couldn’t do anything. But I said 'hell no!'," Chris said.

"Competing in sports is fun! Training for the IRONMAN® is really hard, but fun. Fitness is all about being active," he continued.

One day, Chris decided he wanted to put his training to the test and attempt the IRONMAN® triathlon. 

"People were very cautious. Many people privately said he couldn’t do it and that it was too difficult a task for someone with Down’s Syndrome," Nik said.

But Chris persevered, sure of his ability. He trained for up to eight hours a day, six days week in preparation for the IRONMAN®, aiming to get just 1% better every day. 

He eats nutritious foods to stay healthy and replenish his energy, but does indulge himself every now and then after a long training session with a meal at Waffle House. 

Chris looking at his entry in GWR2022

Nik believes that Chris’s greatest success is his ability to make a difference for others around the world, and challenge perceptions of what a person with Down’s Syndrome can accomplish. 

"Kids look up to me as a leader and a role model" - Chris

That’s why seeing Chris in Guinness World Records 2022 was a big moment for Nik and his wife Patty. 

"Just seeing our boy in that book is just one of the greatest joys we’ve ever experienced. Boy did he do some amazing things and we are so proud of him." 

After breaking a record at his first IRONMAN®, appearing in the Guinness World Records book, winning countless awards, medals and many other accomplishments, what are Chris’s plans for the future? 

"My future goal is to get married, have my own business and to take care of my family."

Chris with the guinness world records 2022 book