In honour of Global Week of Inclusion, Special Olympics is celebrating Champions of Inclusion: individuals leading the charge for respecting and embracing all abilities.
“When I started this, it was all about a boy and his dream. Now, it’s about so much more,” says Special Olympics athlete and international Champion of Inclusion, Chris Nikic.
In November of last year, 21-year-old Chris caught the attention of the world when he became the first person with Down syndrome to become an IRONMAN – completing a triathlon consisting of a 3.8-kilometre swim, a 180-kilometre bike ride and a 42-kilometre marathon run.
It took 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds, but with every stroke, every pedal and every step, Chris Nikic made history – showing the world exactly what is possible through the transformative power of sport and inclusion.
Chris finished in darkness, with cuts on his knees, just 14 minutes short of the official cut off time in Panama City Beach, to make a massive statement about determination and perseverance.
In Ironman's 42-year history, no athlete with Down syndrome had ever competed in, never mind finished an event. It earned him official recognition from Guinness World Records and a Laureus Award for Sporting Moment of The Year.
Since he was nine, Chris has been involved with Special Olympics in his Florida hometown. The Special Olympics movement now encompasses over 5.7 million athletes with intellectual disabilities in 220 countries, sharing the power of sport to create an inclusive world for people of all abilities.
This month, Chris made history yet again when he accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2021 ESPY Awards, marking his big win with an introduction from Tim Tebow and a sweet celebratory dance.
"Wow, what an honor to receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and to be included with such an amazing group of people," Chris told ESPN ahead of the ESPYS ceremony.
"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," he said. "Thank you for me, but more importantly for the Down syndrome community and my fellow Special Olympics athletes."
Since accomplishing what started as just “a boy and his dream,” Chris says his new goal of inspiring inclusion is about so much more.
“Let’s make the world a better place for all of us,” he exclaimed from the stage of the ESPYs to thunderous applause.
Thank you Chris, for being a true Champion of Inclusion!