Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman triathlon, will be honored with the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at The ESPYS on July 10 (8 p.m. ET/ABC).
The award is given to a person in the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination.
In November 2020, Nikic, then 21, finished a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon run at the Ironman Florida competition in Panama City Beach in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds — 14 minutes under the 17-hour cutoff time.
Throughout his training and completion of the race, Nikic inspired others to follow in his footsteps: spreading his message to be “1 percent better” every single day, in every aspect of life.
Nikic also is a nominee in the “Best Athlete with a Disability, Men’s Sports” category.
“Wow, what an honor to receive the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance and to be included with such an amazing group of people,” Nikic said. “As a Special Olympics ambassador, I represent millions of athletes around the world who can now believe that inclusion is real for all of them. Thank you for me, but more importantly for the Down syndrome community and my fellow Special Olympics athletes.”
In 2007, women’s college basketball coach Kay Yow became the first recipient of the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. Past recipients include Eric LeGrand, Anthony Robles, George Karl, Dick and Rick Hoyt, Stuart Scott, Devon and Leah Still, Craig Sager, Jarrius Robertson, Jim Kelly, Rob Mendez and Taquarius Wair.
The Jimmy V Award is named after former NC State men’s basketball coach Jim Valvano, who was diagnosed with cancer at age 46 and died a year later.
The ESPYS help to raise awareness and funds for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, the charity founded by ESPN and the late basketball coach Jim Valvano at the first ESPYS in 1993. ESPN has helped raise nearly $134 million for the V Foundation over the past 28 years.