Man With Down Syndrome Finishes Ironman for First Time in History, Sets Guinness World Record

November 11, 2020 Updated: November 11, 2020

A Maitland man just made history by becoming the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman competition.

Chris Nikic has been preparing for the Ironman race for one year. He’s the type of person who continually looks for ways to improve himself and his life.

In fact, Nikic told Today that he wakes every morning and vows to become “1 percent better” than he was the day before.

“I have to work hard and give my best every day,” he shared.

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Chris Nikic walks to check in his bike the day before the IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 6, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Chris Nikic starts the swim portion of IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Prior to completing the race on Nov. 6, Nikic said confidently, “I am a person with Down syndrome who will complete the Ironman. I am going to make history by crushing it.”

He made the same vow on social media one year ago when he wrote in a tweet about the self-fulfilling prophecy: “Chris World Champ.”

Not just anyone can complete an Ironman. Competitors must swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run a 26.2 mile marathon, all in just under 17 hours.

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Chris Nikic, center, begins the swimming portion of the IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Chris Nikic’s father, Nick, helps Chris transition to the bike portion of the IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Yet, after a year of preparation with trainer Dan Grieb, Nikic not only finished the race, but he now holds a Guinness World Record for being the first person with Down syndrome to complete the elite athletic event.

In fact, Ironman officials said that Nikic is the first person with Down syndrome to even attempt an Ironman race.

Race officials publicly congratulated him for his achievement.

“Congratulations Chris on becoming the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman,” they wrote on social media. “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.”

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Chris Nikic competes in the bike portion with his guide, Dan Grieb, during IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Guide Dan Grieb leads Chris Nikic through the transition from the bike portion to the run portion of IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Nikic’s trainer, Grieb, who has completed 16 Ironman races himself, says that he feels blessed by this experience, too.

“One of the most magical things that has happened to me is that I’ve been able to be introduced into this world,” Grieb said, reported NBC. “In this world, I’ve learned that a hug can solve a lot of problems and some of the greatest among us are labeled with words like disability.”

Nikic is just happy to have achieved the thing he set out to do.

“Goal set and achieved,” he wrote on Instagram. “Time to set a new and BIGGER Goal for 2021.”

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Chris Nikic and his guide, Dan Grieb, cross the finish line of IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Chris Nikic is awarded a medal after finishing IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Chris Nikic hugs his father, Nick, and his sister Jacky after finishing the IRONMAN Florida on Nov. 7, 2020, in Panama City Beach, Florida. (Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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