It’s always refreshing to come across a sports story that pulls at the heartstrings and restores your faith in humanity, especially while news headlines can be so bleak and depressing lately. This past Saturday, a very special journey culminated in an incredible triumph that hit us right in the feels.

Special Olympics athlete Chris Nikic crossed the finish line of the Ironman Florida competition in Panama City this weekend to become the very first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon.

For the record (literally), an Ironman competition consists of a 2.4-mile swim, then a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2-marathon run.

WOOF.

Honestly, just typing that out was exhausting.

Chris completed the entire grueling race in 16 hours, 46 minutes, and 9 seconds.

His achievement was recognized by Guiness World Records, and met with effusive congratulations from all over the world, including the Ironman Triathlon organization, the Special Olympics, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and celebrities like Kara Goucher and Billie Jean King.

Chris himself took to Instagram, where he has gained over 33,000 new followers throughout his journey:

“IRONMAN. Goal set and achieved. Time to set a new and BIGGER Goal for 2021,” he said. “Whatever it is the strategy is the same. 1% Better every day.”

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IRONMAN. Goal set and achieved. Time to set a new and BIGGER Goal for 2021. Whatever it is the strategy is the same. 1% Better every day. YES, I did the work but I had angels helping me. God surrounded me with Angels. Best part of all. New family and friends. All about awareness and inclusion. Awareness for Down Syndrome and Special Olympics. Inclusion for all of us with all of you. I’m sorry for not responding personally to all your messages. It’s amazing but overwhelming because I got 33K new followers and messages since yesterday. I will try and catch up. If you want to support my mission for Down Syndrome and Special Olympics go to my website www.ChrisNikic.com because 100% of the donations go to my charities. I achieved my goal and now I want to help others like me. Thank you to @ironmantri and @im_foundation for making it possible. Thank you @specialolympics @specialolympicsfl for starting the triathlon program. Thank you @rodsracing for giving a home to babies like me. I will be thanking so many more people over the coming days. But I must start with the 3 Angels who trained with me and did the race with me. Dan, Jenn and Carlos. #inclusion

A post shared by Chris Nikic (@chrisnikic) on

According to his website, Chris and his dad developed the “1 percent better challenge” to stay motivated during training. The idea is to promote Down syndrome awareness while achieving a 1% improvement each day.

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Their mission statement reads, “My mission is to honor God by being the best me I can be so I can be an example to others. I want to change the perceptions and raise expectations for others like me so we can reach our God-given potential. Believe and Achieve by Getting 1% Better.”

Imagine what we could accomplish if we each took Chris’s challenge to heart and turned our focus to improving ourselves just 1% every single day?

Maybe you could finish that novel you’ve been wanting to write.

Maybe you could lose those last 15 pounds.

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Maybe you could finally take that vacation you’ve been planning with your wife since before the kids were born.

Who knows?

Maybe you could even finish an Ironman.

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