First ‘Ironman’ with Down syndrome prepares for Boston Marathon, co-writes book

Chris Nikic is setting the bar for himself high.

MAITLAND, Fla – Twenty-one-year-old Chris Nikic has been pedaling on a bike every day towards his new goal. The Boston marathon which is being held on October 11th.

“During the marathon, I have to set the bar really high like a bamboo tree,” Chris said as he trained for the upcoming event.

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Nikic tells News 6 he’s setting the bar high and hopes others with disabilities will follow his lead.

“What’s next for him is people thought Iron man was impossible and then when he achieved it they thought that was the peak of his potential but we’ve realized is that’s actually the beginning now,” Nik Nikic, Chris’ father said.

Nikic said since changing his son’s mindset to be one percent better each day, it’s opened up a world of opportunities for Chris.

It’s a concept they are sharing with others in their first father-son book titled “1% Better. Reaching my full potential and how you can too.”

Courtesy of Chris and Nik Nikie (

“It’s about moving gradually; doing things every day that are possible and that are wins. It’s a simple concept that became a lifestyle that became a habit that is now who he is,” Nikic said.

According to Nikic, it’s that one percent better concept that helped his son become the first person with down syndrome to complete an Iron Man race in November of 2020. It was a moment that came after several years of battling societal perceptions.

“We accepted too many of society’s messages that he couldn’t do much. And we lived within those boundaries and then a few years ago said no more, we’re gonna test his limits and see how far he can go,” he said.

The book highlights Chris’ journey and it also gives a look into the American dream of an immigrant family from Montenegro. Nik was ten years old when his parents brought him to the United States along with his two brothers.

“It sets the context for how this all started; how we think as a family and then how we instill that into our children. We came from nothing, we learned to work hard. It became part of our lifestyle and it’s part of what I’ve been teaching, what we’ve been teaching our children, Chris and Jackie, to really earn their way in the world,” he said. “This isn’t about Iron man. This is about a young man who can choose anything in life with all his disabilities following the 1 percent plan and still achieve amazing things.”

About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.