After his amazing performance at Ironman Florida where he became the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a long-distance race, Chris Nikic was nominated for a prestigious “Inspiration of the Year Award.”
The 21-year-old Special Olympics athlete from Maitland, Florida finished the swim in Panama City Beach in 1:54:39. During the bike leg he got bitten by fire ants when he stopped for nutrition and cut his leg when he fell, but he got through that leg in 8:12:37. He then completed the marathon run in 6:18:48 to finish the race in a total of 16:46:09.
“To Chris, this race was more than just a finish line and celebration of victory. Ironman has served as his platform to become one step closer to his goal of living a life of inclusion, normalcy, and leadership. It’s about being an example to other kids and families that face similar barriers, proving no dream or goal is too high,” said his father Nik after the race. Nik had started Chris on the journey to triathlon by challenging him to do one push up, then asking that he improve himself by 1 percent every day.
“I’m no longer surprised by what Chris can accomplish because I recognize who Chris is; a human being that has goals and dreams just like everyone else,” Dan Grieb, Chris’s guide and coach said after the race. “He wants to make the path easier for those just like him and can follow his lead.”
Nikic was nominated for the Sports Illustrated award alongside American football player, Sarah Fuller, and basketball players Jaylen Brown and Maya Moore.
Moore, who plays for the Minnesota Lynx of the WNBA, “sat out for a second straight season and remove(d) herself from contention for the Olympics so she can continue to push for criminal justice reform and the release of Jonathan Irons, a man she believes is innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced to prison,” according to the New York Times’ Kurt Streeter.