Today host Lori Boll speaks with Chris Nikic and his father, Nic. Chris set a new world record by being the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a 140.6-mile Ironman. He is also the first person with Down Syndrome to be sponsored by Adidas. His mission is to inspire others like him to pursue their dreams and goals.

His greatest achievement is showing others how shifting your focus from your disabilities to your abilities and pursuing your dreams with an unwavering tenacity, a positive attitude and a no-quit grit can help anyone achieve their goals and dreams.

Resources mentioned on today’s show:


Chris Nikic set a new world record by being the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a 140.6-mile Ironman. His mission is to inspire others like him to pursue their dreams and goals.

His greatest achievement is showing others how shifting your focus from your disabilities to your abilities and pursuing your dreams with an unwavering tenacity, a positive attitude and a no-quit grit can help anyone achieve their goals and dreams.


Connect with Chris

Transcribed by Kanako Suwa & Lori Boll

[ Introduction music plays ]

Welcome to the SENIA Happy Hour with your host, Lori Boll. We know you’re busy so we bring you 1 hours worth of content in under thirty minutes, leaving you with time for a true happy hour. 

Lori: Hello everyone, this is Lori Boll and today I had the most amazing opportunity to speak with Chris Nikic and his dad, Nick. So Chris set a new world record by being the first person with Down Syndrome to a 140.6 mile Iron Man. His mission is to inspire others like him to pursue their dreams and goals. Chris’s greatest achievement is showing others how shifting your focus, from your disabilities to your abilities and pursuing your dreams with unwavering tenacity, a positive attitude, and a no-quit-grit can help anyone achieve their goals and dreams. My challenge for you today is to learn more about Chris’s 1% Better Campaign and start thinking about how you might find someone in the community to help pursue their dreams of getting 1% better in something physically active. And if you do find that partner, let us know. We would love to feature you on an upcoming podcast. Okay, and now… on to the show. 

Hi Chris and Nick and welcome to the podcast! 

Chris & Nick: Thank you! 

Lori: So in getting ready for today’s podcast, Chris, I’ve been reading a lot about you. I’m sure you’re told quite often that you’re an inspiration. 

Chris: You know, I was going to say, you know, throughout this, I was told that I can do anything.

Lori: Yeah! 

Chris: That I could be the first person with Down Syndrome to actually try to do the Iron Man. And it’s really fortunate because yesterday was World Down Syndrome Day and it’s really impactful that, you know… 

Lori: Yeah, oh yeah! I rocked my socks yesterday! 

Chris: Because, you know, I was on the commercial

Lori: You were on a commercial? 

Chris: Yeah. 

Lori: Get out! What was it for? 

Chris: Adidas, it was an Adidas commercial.

Lori: Adidas?! 

Chris: Yeah.

Lori: Wow! 

Chris: For the Boston Marathon on April 18th. They are, they are making an ID category, Runner 321. 

Nick: Yeah, so yesterday, Adidas and the Boston Marathon announced a programme called Runner 321 on National Down Syndrome day, so they’re gonna dedicate a category for intellectual disabilities forever, going forward. And they’re gonna call it Runner 321.

Lori: That is so cool, Chris. 

Nick: I’m not gonna cry… 

Chris: you’re crying. 

Nick: I’m not crying! Stop! 

Chris: Will you tell them you’re crying. 

Lori: He’s a super proud dad, right? I’d be crying if I were your dad or mom, for sure. Okay, Chris, so can you tell us about your schooling and what you believe about inclusion? 

Chris: The school system want me to be rare. My belief is that I could do so much and there  are no limits or exceptions. [unclear audio]…if a child…anything is possible. Because you know, Adrienne (Chris’ friend) was part of the commercial too. And maybe after you and I talk we do a follow up weekly podcast with just her and I and not Dad or Bob in the picture. It’s gonna be me, you, her and maybe her mom.

Lori: Cool! I love that idea. Awesome, thanks Chris. Hey, so you are the first individual with Down Syndrome to participate in a full IRONMAN event. And that’s…that’s what the commercial’s about and everything like that, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Lori:  That’s so cool. Um. I read that a long time ago you came in last place at your first Special Olympics event which is a Sprint Triathlon. And then you went on to complete an Olympic Tri, a half marathon and a full marathon. Can you tell us what happened in your first event that sparked your interest to keep doing these more difficult runs?

Chris: Oh my gosh, so…think back to the story when Chris Nikic decided to do a Sprint and you know I came in dead last and I knew that I needed to do more because God has a plan for me in the future from a Sprint to an Olympic. I completed that and then from a Sprint to Olympic to a Half, a Marathon, and then uh, I did a Half IRONMAN in Claremont. It took me 8 hours and 25 minutes. Uh, from there I’ve been training hard [unclear audio] and I did an IRONMAN with a group of friends to realize that to need and to realize that [unclear audio] so it took me 2 ½ years ago from being called average to a Sprint, to Olympic, to a Half IRONMAN and then an IRONMAN and I couldn’t be able to do a single push up. I couldn’t be able to do a pull-up or swim or bike or run and in that moment I knew that you know, God, would say to me, uh, if you’re ready to work hard, you got to have a life [unclear audio] she has a husband. And now the whole story [unclear audio] to hear average to a Sprint and to Olympic and then Half IRONMAN and then a Full IRONMAN after I did 200 push ups and squats and then now here’s where I’m at not. I’ve got a home now. I’ve got a car and then now I have the most amazing woman.

Lori: Wow.

Chris: And I received two ESPY’s (Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly) and I didn’t know that I was going to get first ESPY and when I was in New York all I remember was Tim Tebow was …he’s like…basically he said “Ladies and gentlemen please welcome the ESPY winner for perseverance…Chris Nikic.”

Lori: Wow, congratulations on your ESPY. And let me just say that an ESPY is short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award so that’s pretty amazing, Chris. 

You have a campaign and book called 1% Better. Can you tell us about that?

Chris: So this 1% program is you’re willing to commit to 1% Better because you’re willing to work hard and then you have to help someone else.

Lori: I see, so you commit to being 1% better and then you help someone else?

Chris: Yes

Lori: I see. Okay. And who is it that we’re helping become 1% better?

Chris: I think we’re gonna help my girlfriend.

Lori: You’re gonna help your girlfriend 

Chris: Yes

Lori: Cool. That’s nice

Chris: The more that I help her the more we can do weekly podcasts with her.

Lori: Yeah, that’s neat. Um, Nic, can you help explain the 1% Better Campaign?

Nic: Sure, so the 1% Better Campaign really is a replication of what happened with Chris which was we focused on him getting 1% better before we did it through a partnership where we had others doing with with him and it made for a much better environment of inclusion and able-bodied individuals helping those who had disabilities and so the whole program, as Chris said, is for someone to commit to getting 1% better themselves so that they understand the program and the power of it and then to find someone with special needs and be willing to help them in their journey because it does take a commitment of one person helping another so that they can both benefit from the journey and if we can get 1,000 or 10,000 people to do that they’ll influence a lot of and impact a lot of uh people out there who have disabilities and who could use some help, but who are very capable um with the right guidance and the right support system and the right help and so that’s what the 1% Better program is all about. 

Lori: Yeah I lo…absolutely love that idea, Chris and Nic. I think it’s so simple and yet can affect so much change in our community. So we at SENIA, we are going to promote your campaign and hopefully get a bunch of people interested in doing this so I’ve been thinking for my own son that um…my own son has um a disability as well, so I was thinking hmmm…what can we do for him so you’ve really got me thinking about his goal you know and talking with him and trying to figure out what he wants to do and then finding a buddy or someone to help him get that 1% better.

Nic: Yeah, so in the state of Florida, the Special Olympics triathlon program since Chris started with 3 other individuals has grown to well over 50 people and each one has a guide. So it’s one person helping another and it’s growing exponentially in Florida. And if you imagine the same kind of thing across every Special Olympic sport, not just triathlon.

Lori: Yeah

Nic: If it grows at that rate, we’re talking about 10’s of thousands of individuals getting help to get physically better and intellectually better and so if we can spread that message and that kind of awareness around the country, around the world, um I believe we can help 10’s of thousands of individuals with disabilities to become much more active, um physically fitter, um much more involved and included in the community and that’s probably the greatest joy that we’ve gotten out of this whole thing; Chris’ level of involvement and inclusion in the community. 

Lori: Yeah. It’s amazing. And Chris, you have book called 1% Better, right?

Chris: Yea.

Lori: I love it. I looked at the pictures and it’s a great book

Chris: Thanks

Lori: It looks just like you.

Chris: Well, I am that guy.

Lori. Yeah. (laughs). So we’re going to post the link to your book on our website as well so hopefully people will buy it and learn from you. So I want to go back to your IRONMAN in Hawaii and may Nic, you can um help us find out how we can support Chris as he’s heading to Hawaii.

Nic: Sure, so there’s a few ways. Um certainly it’s a pretty expensive journey with a team of people. So if people want to help, one way is the 1% Better Challenge. If um let’s say we get 1,000 people decide to take the challenge. And they buy 2 t-shirts, uh 1% Better t-shirts, one for them and one for their partner. And they promote the challenge on social media and they tell other friends and neighbors, um, the proceeds from those t-shirts go to support Chis and his journey so it’s a way to promote both the program of 1% better and the challenge as well as support Chris a little bit at a time toward his journey towards IRONMAN Hawaii. Um and of course people can always contribute to the foundation which really is designed to help so we’re gonna be sponsoring a lot of programs around the country on physical fitness and helping promote this um the 1% better foundation or people can certainly make a donation through our GoFundMe page that’s on Chris’ website chrisnickic.com. Uh but honestly, probably the best way that we feel best about is the 1% Better Challenge because uh that’s more of the mission and you know, in terms of funding if um, I’d rather have 10,000 people do the 1% Better program than people actually making a donation. 

Lori: That’s…that’s very kind and I love that it just all goes back to that mission. Um, Chris, before we go today, what um, what are some workouts you do to get ready for your run? Or your IRONMAN

Chris: Fun sprints.

Lori: Sprints?

Nic: Give her an idea. You’re preparing for the Boston Marathon. Give her an idea. What was your long run last week? What are you gonna do today? What’s gonna be your long run this Saturday? Just give her an idea, a little bit about your training program. 

Chris: So last week I did 15 miles. Saturday I go on 18.

Nic: Saturday, 18. And today he’s gonna do a couple hours of sprints and a couple hours of bike

Chris: Really?

Nic: Yeah, that’s it. Easy. With your friends. 

Lori: Easy peasy.(Laughs)  That’s a joke.

Nic: And his friends that are doing a triathlon are joining him.

Lori: Cool. That’s amazing, Chris. 

Chris: Thanks

Lori: Yeah. Well, hey, I don’t want to take up too much more of your time because I know that you’ve got a great breakfast or lunch waiting for you. So I just want to thank you for your time today and wish you the very best of luck on your 1% Better campaign and on your trip to Kona. 

Chris & Nic: Thanks. Thanks you too, bye.

Thank you for joining us for today’s show. For more information including how to subscribe and show notes, please head to our website. That’s SENIAinternational.org/podcast. Until next time, cheers.