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Man trains in St. Pete to be first with Down syndrome to complete Ironman triathlon

For the past year, Chris Nikic has been training to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman.
 
Chris Nikic, shown here with his father, Nik, has been training for a year to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman.
Chris Nikic, shown here with his father, Nik, has been training for a year to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 ]
Published Oct. 23, 2020

The Ironman triathlon is an event many athletes have circled on their calendar each year and this year’s no different, especially for Chris Nikic.

“One day, this young man and his father showed up at one of our trip club meetings and said that he was looking for a guide and that’s where a magical friendship began," Chris' coach, Dan Grieb said,

Chris, 21, is not like everyone else. He was born with Down syndrome.

“Everything we’ve ever been told from the day he was born to a couple years ago was that he would never amount to anything,” Chris' dad, Nic, told Bay News 9′s Katya Guillaume.

But you have to meet Chris to understand how that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I am a high school graduate, a par speaker, and as you can see I’m adorable, single and available,” said Chris, who is from Orlando and has been training in St. Petersburg the last few weeks.

Chris is bound to make you laugh, but when he’s not, which is rare, he’ll tell you what led him here.

“So I did a 1,000-meter swim across the lake and then I signed the wall."

”What did you sign?" his father Nic asked. Chris answered: “I signed ‘World Champ.”

Nic continued, “Then what happened after that? What did I say to you?”

Chris continued: “’Do you want to do Ironman?' I’m like yeah.”

For the past year, Chris has been training to become the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman.

“You reach a point where you’re always so concerned about their future that you do everything you can to set them up for the future,” Nic said while trying to fight back tears. “I’m proud of him. He’s amazing and he’s God’s gift to all of us to kind of reflect on how we can be better.”

The 2020 Ironman Triathlon is set for Nov. 28. It is a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.22-mile run.

Chris just has to complete it in 17 hours to achieve his goal.

Go here to see the Spectrum Bay News 9 video.