You might know Chris Nikic as the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman, which he accomplished last November; or the Jimmy V Award recipient at the 2021 ESPYs; or, and most recently, the co-author of 1% Better: Reaching My Full Potential and How You Can Too. Some people just know him as Chris, the always-smiling 22-year-old athlete who loves (and I mean loves) Chipotle.
When POPSUGAR sat down for a video call with Nikic and his father, Nik, back in August, Nikic was preparing for the 2021 Ironman World Championship as well as the New York City Marathon. The first of the two, in St. George, UT, was postponed from this month to next May, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Nikic is now training for both the Boston Marathon on Oct. 11 and the NYC Marathon on Nov. 7. In addition to the postponed 2021 championship, the 2022 Ironman World Championship is set to take place in Kailua-Kona, HI, next October. According to an Ironman spokesperson, “The selection process for athletes to choose which event they will compete in is ongoing,” and Nikic hasn’t made an official decision yet.
Through all of the recognition Nikic has received over this past year alone, he wants other people with Down syndrome to believe they, too, can strive to achieve whatever they pour their energy into. That’s where his motto, “1% better,” comes from — working at something slowly and persistently until you’re improving bit by bit, one percent at a time.
Nikic is looking forward to these marathons — running is his favorite part of triathlons — but he’s also most excited for the post-race celebrations. (In his mind, that will include “clubbing and drinking champagne,” plus Chipotle, and we don’t blame him!) If you’re planning on rooting for Nikic, he’d love signs that say “Pain Versus Gain” and “Chris Nikic Is Coming to Town.” May we also suggest “Chris, You’ve Got This!” with a burrito bowl drawn on for good measure.
At the NYC Marathon specifically, he will be running alongside a team from nonprofit KultureCity, which one of his good friends with autism, Rachel Barcellona, is involved in. He wants to support her and others like her. The charity focuses on “sensory accessibility and inclusion for those with invisible disabilities” such as autism, PTSD, and dementia.