The Real Ironman: The Story of Chris Nikic

Chris Nikic during the race
Assembled by Ryan Taylor.

In life, there are trials and tribulations that present themselves in many different forms. Many see them as setbacks and use them as reasons to give up on finding true happiness, but others see them as motivation to push forward even harder than before. These trials and tribulations may come as financial struggles, loss of a family member or friend, and even bad news from a doctor. Ultimately, the decision to persevere and fight on forward or allow the negative situation at hand to force you to crumble is up to one person: you. Starting at an early age, twenty-one year-old Florida man, Chris Nikic, has faced some of the toughest things life can throw at one person, but he has refused to allow them to hinder him from achieving the goals he has set for himself.

Media by Michael Reeves.

Early on in his life, Nikic had some of the toughest and unimaginable obstacles thrown his way such as being diagnosed early on with a pretty commonly known genetic disorder, Down Syndrome. At the tender age of just five months old, Nikic had to have open-heart surgery done in order to continue to live his life. Following the procedure, he did not have the ability to walk on his own until the age of four years old. To make matters even more difficult, he couldn’t comfortably eat and keep down solid foods until a year later.

With the help and motivation from his parents, Nikic always knew he was special. He knew that even with his illness, he could accomplish so many things that he desired to accomplish; this triathlon being one of them. As Nikic matured, his father, Nik Sr., encouraged him to write down obtainable goals and assisted his son in the needed steps to achieve them. This instilled the early mindset in Nikic’s brain that he could do many of the same things that those without illnesses could do.

From the time he became strong enough to engage in exercise activities, Nikic fell in love. He loved being outdoors on his bike, swimming in the pool, and running freely for long distances. As years prevailed, he and his family decided to take his love for activities and do something with it. They found a training coach, Dan Grieb, who began to mold the young athlete into a future triathlon competitor. After countless hours of sweat, the day of the triathlon finally arrived. Everything he worked for was about to be put to the test on a big stage.

Media by Michael Reeves.

Throughout the competition, Nikic found himself in some tough spots that could’ve set him back, but like he’s always done, he fought through and continued on. For example, during a small hydration break, Nikic unknowingly stopped and stood on an ant farm. As the ants covered and nibbled on his ankle, it began to swell. As opposed to deciding to cut his race short, Nikic decided to keep on fighting forward. He climbed on his bike and continued the event until he found himself flying a little too fast. He reached a speed of 20mph on downhill stretch, and he fell off his bike in an attempt to slow down. Despite a little bit of rolling on the concrete and some slight bruising on his right leg, Nikic AGAIN climbed back on the bike and kept going.

Morgan McCarthy, who works first hand with young men who have down syndrome, caught word of this story. When asked about her view on the event, she shared, “This story is extremely inspirational. Many people look down on people with disabilities because they don’t realize that at the end of the day they are still people. They are still able to do things that other people are capable of doing. Seeing someone with the same sickness as you motivate other individuals with disabilities to have the drive to want to accomplish their dreams.”

Media by CBS Sports.

In an interview with Click Orlando, Nikic’s father said, “To all those out in the community, give our kids a chance. Don’t prejudge them and predetermine what they can or can’t do. They may not be able to do it but let them decide that.” Despite the differences between many people, we are all capable of making things happen and achieving our goals. Never be afraid to take that next step and push forward despite the potential setbacks and obstacles presented.


Media by Ryan Taylor.


  1. Oh wow, this story is amazing and inspiring! I’ve never heard of him before and I’m glad I came across your article. Definitely a story I’m sure we all can relate to in some way or another.
    Thank you for a great read!

  2. This was Inspiring and motivational!!! The human spirit cannot be measured or contained. This article was just what I needed to remind me of what is possible.

  3. Ty Jelks I like how you pick people in obscurity and high light their strengths. I truly enjoyed this article. Not only was it inspirational, but it make me want to push forward to ward my goals. Very uplifting. Thank you for this.

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