First Athlete With Down Syndrome Finishes Ironman World Championship

There is something special about stories of athletes born with various physical limitations, who choose to fight on, inspiring those around them.

Owen Groesser, who was born with Down Syndrome, was an 8th-grade student at Van Hoosen junior high in Rochester, Michigan.

Groesser, who had not appeared in a single game finally made his debut. 

The result; he shot a pair of three-pointers in six minutes of playing time.


In another moving moment, Chris Nikic became the first person with Down Syndrome to finish the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona Friday night.

With help of his volunteer guide, Dan Grieb, Nikic completed the 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run in 16 hours, 31 minutes, and 27 seconds.

When Nikic crossed the finish line, he jumped into the arms of Grieb.

“This is something that changes perceptions for every parent worldwide with children with Down syndrome,” said Ironman finish-line announcer, Mike Reilly. “Now they all know one thing for sure – anything is possible.”

Nikic credits his success to his philosophy: Just get 1% better every day.

“It’s easy to be successful because I only need to get one percent better each day,” the 23-year-old said.

The Ironman World Championship has been held annually in Hawaii since 1978. Qualifying for the World Championship is achieved through placement in one of the other Ironman races.

Last November, Nikic completed his first full Ironman.


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