June 9, 2023

Special Olympics Athletes Set to Compete in the Second Challenge Family Triathlon Series

Special Olympics athletes are set to return to Samorin, Slovakia this summer from 18 – 22 May for the second annual Special Olympics European Triathlon Open Competition as part of the Challenge Family Triathlon Series. The Samorin event is the 6th of 31 Challenge Family Triathlon Series Olympic-standard triathlons this year as the race is made up of a 750-meter open-water swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.

Special Olympics has 33 athletes, 9 female and 24 male, from 11 different countries competing in the race. The 11 countries represented are Estonia (1), Finland (4), Germany (4), Guatemala (3), Israel (1), Italy (3), Monaco (3), Netherlands (3), Puerto Rico (3), Slovakia (2) and USA (6). Additionally, 20 coaches will travel with their respective triathlete(s). Between the 2022 and 2023 Samorin races, the number of competing countries almost doubled, going from 6 in 2022 to 11 in 2023.

The inclusion of Special Olympic athletes in the Challenge Family triathlon allows Special Olympics triathletes to challenge themselves on an elevated performance level. Special Olympics is currently working to grow the sport internationally, eventually resulting in the competition being held at the Special Olympics World Games. In addition to growing the sport, the inclusive competition environment provided by the Challenge Family increases the number of people exposed to and working with people with intellectual disability (ID).

National Director and Chairwoman of Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia Leadership Council Eva Gažová expressed her hopes for what is to come from the event, “A legacy. We are all working on a legacy of Special Olympics sports, athletes, and their successes. Legacy is the future for better society and recognition of our athletes.”

Challenge Family Marketing Manager Erik Baláž with his hands on his hips as he stands facing to the right while smiling at the camera.

Challenge Family Marketing Manager Erik Baláž.

With a sustainable legacy and an expanding Special Olympics triathlete pool, the future of triathlon in Special Olympics will provide an opportunity for even more people with ID to showcase their skills and abilities while living out Eunice Kennedy Shiver’s challenge to, “be brave in the attempt” as athletes compete on grassroots and international levels.

Challenge Family Marketing Manager Erik Baláž said, “I believe that together we can prove to the whole world that triathlon, as well as our triathlon event, is a leader in the world of sports inclusion. In the coming years we will succeed in our mutual effort and will be able to raise the bar a little higher and organize not only the Special Olympics European Triathlon Competition but also the Special Olympics Triathlon World Championships.”

Special Olympics triathlete Chris Nikic (left) crossing the finish line of Ironman with his coach (left).

Special Olympics triathlete Chris Nikic (left) completes Ironman.

Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images

Adding to the impressive week of competition in May, American triathlete Chris Nikic is making his debut in Slovakia for the Special Olympics European Triathlon Open Competition. Nikic is best known for his impressive performance in 2019 when he became the first person with Down syndrome to finish an IRONMAN triathlon.