When down is up

SPORTS EYE - Raffy Uytiepo (The Freeman) - November 17, 2020 - 12:00am

A few years back, we organized an athletics competition for kids afflicted with Down Syndrome. It was a big challenge for us because frankly speaking, the mentally-challenged are harder to deal with than the physically-impaired.  In that event, one participant refused to leave the track after he tripped and fell.  Another big fellow went up the stage to get a medal during the awarding ceremonies. But the other Saturday, an amazing feat happened in Florida. No, it was not the spiking Covid 19 nor Hurricane Eta which battered the coastlines. It was Chris Nikic, 21, the first person with Down Syndrome to complete a triathlon when he finished the Ironman Florida in 16 hours, 46 minutes and 9 seconds in Panama City Beach, Florida. Nikic, who hails from Maitland, was 14 minutes before the cut-off time. He was accompanied by his guide Dan Grieb. Tennis great Billie Jean King tweeted “Congratulations to Chris Nikic, the first person to complete the grueling Ironman, no boundaries, no limits , keep dreaming big and going for it." 2008 Olympic triathlon titlist Jan Frodeno of Germany, who is also a three-time champion of the Ironman World Championship (2015, 2016 and 2019), holds the world record of 7 hours 51 mins and 13 seconds, registered in the Kona, Hawaii Ironman last year.  Nikic earned a record in the Book of Guinness and was cited by the Special Olympics.

Able Disabled

In 2004, one legged- triathlete Rudy Fernandez of Iloilo City and I met blind Olympic gold medalist Henry Wanyoike of Kenya, when we ran the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon.  In 2003, Wanyoike won the Boston Marathon (visually impaired category) and repeated in 2004.  In the Athens Olympics, he broke the world record in the 10,000 meters and 5000 meters (blind category).  Wanyoike also won gold medals in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters (visually impaired) in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.  Wanyoike lost his sight when he woke up one day in April 1995.  Like Wanyoike, Rudy got the biggest applause when we arrived at the finish line at Padang.  In the Everyman Triathlon at Plantation Bay, Rudy shamed a lot of triathletes when he came out of the water at top 20 and maintained that position on the bike segment.  Don’t call Henry and Rudy, disabled, they are able-disabled.

NOTE: The physically-challenged are now called persons with disability (PWD).

Did you know?

Gertrude Ederle

In previous columns, I’ve mentioned Gertrude Ederle as the first woman to swim the English Channel but did you know that in 1922, Ederle broke seven world records and in the 1924 Paris Olympics, she won bronze medals in the 100-meter and 400 meter freestyle. According to Ripley’s “Believe It or Not”, she was met on the beach at Dover by an English Immigration officer who demanded her passport.

Susi Susanti

While the Philippines still dreams of winning its first gold medal, two Indonesians made their country proud by winning its first two gold medals in badminton in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Susi Susanti took the gold in the women’s singles while her fiancé Alan Kusuma won in men’s division. The two Indonesians delayed their wedding so they could compete in Barcelona where badminton was first introduced as a medal sport.

Joseph Schooling

Won Singapore’s first gold medal when he upset his idol Michael Phelps in the 100- meter butterfly in the 2016 Rio Olympics.   Schooling clocked 50:39 to eclipse Phelps’ 50:58 recorded in the 2008 Beijing Games.

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