Published On: Thu, Nov 19th, 2020

Special Olympics Florida Athlete and IRONMAN, Chris Nikic Welcomed Home + Triathlon Team Florida Invited to 2022 Special Olympics USA Games

Governor DeSantis with Nik & Chris Nikic

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis makes appearance to honor athletes

Boca Raton, FL – Today, Special Olympics Florida and the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games welcomed home Special Olympics Florida athlete Chris Nikic, who, earlier this month, became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full-distance IRONMAN triathlon. Chris finished the 2020 Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN® Florida in 16:46:09 on November 7.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a special appearance to honor Chris and other Special Olympics Florida athletes.

“This is an incredible feat,” Gov. DeSantis said.  “It has drawn international attention to Chris and Special Olympics Florida and he even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records.”

Gov. DeSantis congratulated Special Olympics Florida athletes on their many accomplishments and thanked them for inspiring communities across the state.

During the event, Sherry Wheelock, President & CEO of Special Olympics Florida, along with Joe Dzaluk, the President & CEO of the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games announced that Chris and his teammates from Special Olympics Florida’s Unified triathlon team would be representing Team Florida in the Special Olympics USA Games, hosted in Orlando, Florida in June 2022.  This is the first group of athletes who have been invited to the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.

This is the second time in history that a Special Olympics USA Games will offer the sport of triathlon, which includes a 300-meter-swim, 10-mile-bike and 5K run. The event will be held at Victory Point Park in Clermont, FL.

Also, during the presentation, Chris Nikic was awarded the Local Hero Award by Special Olympics Florida. The Local Hero Award celebrates inspiring individuals whose actions help create a more accepting and inclusive world for people with intellectual disabilities.

Rachel Barcellona, the first person with autism to compete in the Miss Florida pageant, opened the event, singing the national anthem and creating a delightful moment celebrating Special Olympics Florida athletes.

Listed below are the Special Olympics Florida athletes and Unified partners who will be attending the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. Unified partners are athletes without intellectual disabilities who train with and are teammates of Special Olympics athletes.

Special Olympics Florida Athletes

  • Kennet Lefkovic, Flagler County
  • Kyle Krekeler, Lake County
  • Adam Mucklow, Lake County
  • Adrienne Bunn, Marion County
  • Thomas Welsh, Marion County
  • Jonathan Sady, Orange County
  • Andrew Ahearn, Pasco County
  • Kairee Whitmore, Pasco County
  • Abigail Adams, Seminole County
  • Chris Nikic, Seminole County

Unified Partners

  • Wynne McFarlin, Orange County
  • Simone Goodfriend, Seminole County
  • Gustavo Costa, Orange County
  • Jamie Moses, Orange County
  • David Berlant, Orange County
  • Erin Freel-Mann, Marion County
  • Dan Grieb, Orange County
  • Robert Berlant, Orange County
  • Phyllis Crain, Pasco County
  • Douglas Troyer, Marion County

To learn more about Special Olympics Florida or the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, please visit www.specialolympicsflorida.org and 2022specialolympicsusagames.org.

About Special Olympics Florida

Special Olympics Florida provides year-round sports training, competition, and health services to children and adults with intellectual disabilities, at no cost to the athletes or their caregivers, as a means to achieve physical fitness, self-esteem, socialization skills, and the life skills necessary to be productive, respected, and contributing members of their communities. To learn more, visit www.specialolympicsflorida.org.

About the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games

The 2022 Special Olympics USA Games is scheduled for June 5-12, 2022 in Orlando, Florida. Jersey Mike’s Subs is the Presenting Partner and Walt Disney World Resort is host during the event. During this magical week, more than 5,500 athletes and coaches from all 50 states and the Caribbean will travel to Florida to unite in one of the country’s most cherished sporting events. The USA Games is hosted once every four years and showcases 20 Olympic-style team and individual sports and 30 events throughout the week including forums and VIP receptions. Website: www.2022usagames.org

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