PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – The Ironman Florida and Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast returned to Panama City Beach on Saturday.

The races were the first Ironman events to be held since the pandemic began.

“The feeling on the beach this morning was amazing you know the energy of the athletes the energy of the volunteers great to get people in the water and get the party started,” Ironman’s head of operations Keats McGonigal said.

On the men’s side, Chris Leiferman came in first place with a time of 7:52:44. On the women’s side, Katrina Matthews came in first with a time of 8:40:50.

“This is so hard, this is not an easy thing, but to get out and race and compete and be in a deep field like this that’s pretty cool,” Leiferman said.

This Ironman event was special for so many reasons. One being the fact that one participant this year was trying to make history as the first person with down syndrome to complete a full Ironman.

Chris Nikic from Maitland, Florida, managed to do just that. He finished the race with a time of 16:46:09.