When Chris Nikic crossed the finish line late on Saturday night in Panama City Beach, Florida, he made history.
The 21-year-old became the first person in history with Down Syndrome to finish a full-distance Ironman triathlon.
Nikic crossed the finish line at the Ironman Florida race in 16:46.09. The Ironman triathlon consists of three legs, a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. The 140.6 mile race must be completed in 17 hours.
Nikic fell off his bike twice during the race, and even had to deal with a minor ant attack during a nutrition stop, according to Special Olympics Florida, but still finished the race in time.
“We are incredibly proud of Chris and the work he has put in to achieve this monumental goal,” Special Olympics Florida president and CEO Sherry Wheelock said in a statement. “He’s become a hero to athletes, fans, and people across Florida and around the world. He’s an inspiration to all of us.”
Nikic, who has been training and competing in triathlons since he was 16, will now start working to qualify for the triathlon in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
“Goal set and achieved,” Nikic wrote on Instagram on Sunday, in part. “Time to set a new and bigger goal for 2021. Whatever it is, the strategy is the same. One percent better every day. Yes, I did the work but I had angels helping me. God surrounded me with angels. Best part of all. New family and friends. All about awareness and inclusion. Awareness for Down Syndrome and Special Olympics. Inclusion for all of us with all of you.”
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