First person with Down syndrome to complete Ironman triathlon receives Local Hero Award

A 21-year-old Central Florida man who was the first person with Down syndrome to complete the Ironman triathlon has been honored with a special award to mark his amazing achievement.

Chris Nikic, 21, became the first person with down syndrome to complete an Ironman Triathalon earlier this month and on Thursday he received another special honor.

"You've really changed people's minds, Chris. You've done what we've always wanted to offer our athletes: give them the opportunity and they can show the world that anything is possible," said officials with Special Olympics Florida.   

Nikic is only the second person to receive the award.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was also present at the award ceremony and congratulated Nikic, stating that he was very impressed by his athletic abilities.

“What percentage of people could do any one of the three legs?” Gov. DeSantis asked the audience. “How many people could swim 2.4 miles – any takers out there? How many of you could bike 112 miles? How many of you could run a marathon 26.2 miles? This is a remarkable feat.”

RELATED: Maitland man with Down syndrome completes the Ironman competition

That wasn't the only happy surprise. 

Nikic and his triathlon team will also be part of Team Florida at the Special Olympics USA, which will be held in Orlando in 2022.

Nikic went viral after completing the Ironman triathlon in 16:46:09. It's a difficult feat for anyone. Chris swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles, and after that, ran a 26.2-mile marathon.

Chris said, "I did Ironman and I have Down syndrome."

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Nikic trained every day for a year with his dad, who was also his coach.  

“When he crossed that finish line and the journey towards it put me at peace that he could do anything,” Nick Nikic said. “He could live a life of independence that he wants – the sky is the limit for him.”

Nikic said he hopes to inspire more people to reach for their goals.

“Work hard and do it with a smile,” Nikic said. “Do whatever it takes to move forward.”  

And most importantly, believe in yourself.

Tune in to FOX 35 Orlando for the latest Central Florida news.