Role model inspires boy with Down Syndrome to finish mini-triathlon

For 14-year-old Caleb Prewitt of Jacksonville, Florida, who has Down Syndrome, exercising anything other than his thumbs was never a passion.

He could barely cross a pool, couldn’t ride a bike without help, and saw the treadmill as little more than a novelty.

“So a triathlon wasn’t on your list of things for Caleb to do?” I asked Caleb’s mom, Karen.

“It was not on our list, no,” she replied.

At least not until Caleb met 21-year-old Chris Nikic.

“Did you like him when you met him?” I asked.

“Yes, I did,” Caleb responded, adding that he was “super cool.”

Super cool, he said. And you can see why. Last year, Chris competed in that grueling, 140-mile swimming, biking and running race known as the Ironman — the first person with Down Syndrome to ever cross the finish line.

“If there was a poster with Chris on it, it would be in Caleb’s room,” Karen said.

But what Chris did next was even more herculean. He took this young fan under his wing, became a mentor, worked out with him and planted a dream.

“Just the fact that he was so warm and inspiring helped Caleb realize that these are things that I can do, too,” said Karen.

Can — and did. Last weekend, Caleb finished his first mini-triathlon. He is believed to be the youngest person with Down Syndrome to ever do so. He also received an invitation to compete on Florida’s Special Olympics triathlon team — the same team Chris is on.

“Do you want to be like Chris?” I asked Caleb, to which he replied “Yes.”

“I think you are like Chris,” I told Caleb.

“What? Oh my God! Yes!” he exclaimed.

“Is that like the best compliment you’ve ever received?” I asked. “Oh, yes,” Caleb said.

Heroes come in many different shapes, sizes, and abilities. But they all have the same superpower: To lift the hopes of others.