When he finished Ironman Florida last November, Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to finish a full-distance race. On July 10 his amazing feat and continued triathlon exploits will be honored when ESPN presents the 21-year-old with the Jimmy V Award for Perserverance.
“The award is given to a person in the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination,” ESPN said in a press release today. “Throughout his training and completion of the race, Nikic inspired others to follow in his footsteps: spreading his message to be “1 percent better” every single day, in every aspect of life.”
The award, which is named after basketball coach Jim Valvano, who was diagnosed with cancer when he was 46 and passed away a year later. Past recipients of the award include Ironman Hall of Fame members Dick and Rick Hoyt.
“Wow, what an honor to receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and to be included with such an amazing group of people,” Nikic said. “As a Special Olympics ambassador, I represent millions of athletes around the world who can now believe that inclusion is real for all of them. Thank you for me, but more importantly for the Down syndrome community and my fellow Special Olympics athletes.”
Nikic has also been nominated for “Best Athlete with a Disability, Men’s Sports” at the ESPYS, an award which is voted on by fans. Also in the running for the award are two-time swimming Paralympian and 2021 hopeful Evan Austin, two-time world adaptive surfing champion Jesse Billauer and Keith Gabel, a two-time 2021 Para snowboarding world cup gold medalist.