Chris Nikic is the first person with Down Syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon. On November 7, 2020, he swam 2.4 miles, rode his bike 112 miles, and then ran a 26.2-mile marathon in under 17 hours, securing his entry in the Guinness Book of World Records. I spoke with the 21-year old athlete from Orlando, Florida, and his father, Nik Nikic, about why he works to become 1 percent better every day.

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Photo: Nik Nikic.

Michaela: Congrats! How was the race? Was there a moment when you thought of giving up?

Chris: The bicycling part was a challenge. Around mile 40, I got bit by fire ants, and by mile 50, I crashed. Dad pulled me to the side and said, “What’s more important, your back pain or your dream?” I said, “My dream.” …


Can a sophisticated platform cooperative help minimize exploitative working conditions in the gig economy, even during a pandemic?

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Copyright: Up & Go.

At first glance, Up & Go resembles any other housekeeping app: When a client requests a cleaning service in New York City, it only takes a few clicks, and a trained housekeeper like Maria Carmen Tapia will show up at the door with her scrubber, broom, and eco-sprays. For a $135 fee she will do a five-hour deep cleaning of a one-bedroom apartment, scrub the bathroom, polish the floors.

But under the surface, Up & Go operates differently than most gig economy platforms, and its structure serves the workers well now in the pandemic. 42-year-old Ms. Tapia is no underpaid worker eking out a meager living in an expensive city. She is the owner of her own enterprise. “When someone hires me, they get the boss herself!” …


“Who is my father?” When Ben Norman turns 14, this question turns into his quest. When he finds the answer in a mugshot, the discovery not only uproots his own life, but also the credibility of one of the most renowned sperm banks in the country. This month, the Supreme Court of Georgia will hear the case that might have consequences for the entire fertility industry.

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Wendy Norman and her son Ben. Copyright: Johnathon Kelso.

A man like a dream: At 6’ 4’’ and 170 lbs, with blue eyes and a genius IQ of 160, donor #9623 seems like a perfect candidate to start a family. He describes himself as a lookalike of Jim Carey, Brandon Lee, and Tom Cruise. The man is unusually athletic, optimistic, a devoted Christian, a talented musician, and an artist. He has been “recognized as one of the most proficient drummers alive,” he writes on his application. Of English-German ethnicity, he speaks four languages and is on his way to get a Ph.D. in neuroscientist engineering. His idol: Nelson Mandela. …


Gloria, you’re always on the run now

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Elvis and Priscilla Presley on their wedding day. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Summertime, …

Gloria is hell-bent on teaching me how to sing.

and the livin’ is easy…she trills, in tune, but with a wispy score. Once upon a time, the petite blonde reaped applause as an opera singer, even sang at the Met, but all the glamour faded after her husband strangled her, crushing her larynx.

I join in, So hush, little baby, don’t you cry.

Gloria sees a chance to repay me for my kindness by offering me singing lessons in exchange for staying in my garage. My old, crummy, windowless, drafty garage. …


No, it isn’t the turkey or the cranberry sauce.

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If we have a happy Thanksgiving depends on a key ingredient I got from Maya Angelou. My hero Maya Angelou granted me an interview for my book Bouncing Forward six months before we lost her bright light, and I asked her the question that has gripped me for years: How do we manage to triumph over adversities?

Angelou’s advice to me was clear-cut: Develop an attitude of gratitude. “I think we have to be grateful,” she told me in her deep, raspy voice. “You could have died last night, you know.” She laughed.

Rather than reveling in the injustice and brutality that stamped her life, she chose to focus on the achievements. “If I live my life with self-confidence and kindness and don’t get anything back from that, I’m not overcome.” …


One chef’s color-coded solution to end sexual harassment in her restaurant could just be the blueprint the service industry needs.

When Chef Erin Wade learned that most of her staff had been dealing with sexual harassment at her restaurant Homeroom in Oakland, CA, she was shocked. The inciting incident was a father of four who reached under one server’s blouse in front of his kids. “We’re a family restaurant, our specialty is mac and cheese!” Wade remembers thinking at the time, as if comfort foods were a bulwark against assault. She quickly realized that her restaurant wasn’t a particular hotbed for harassers. …


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Author Julie Rehmeyer. Photo: Kerry Sherck

Science journalist Julie Rehmeyer was so sick she sometimes couldn’t turn over in bed. The top specialists in the world were powerless to help, and scientific research on her disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), was at a near standstill. She was running out of money. And she was all alone, with no one to care for her.


An interview with the artist, former nun, and latex lover Damcho Dyson about the different masks we wear and awakening to who we truly are

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Damcho Dyson. Copyright: Graham Price. Graphics: Daniel Clark.

The image is stunning: A young woman sits in perfect meditation posture, cross-legged, hands folded at the heart, in front of a Bodhi tree leaf, but instead of in a more traditional Buddhist garb she is clad from top to toe in black latex. The story behind the image is even more intriguing: The Australian-born artist Damcho Dyson used to wear a very different kind of outfit. For ten years, she wore the simple maroon robes of a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Damcho is the Tibetan name her spiritual teacher gave her when she ordained. Born Michelle Tonkin, she was a successful installation artist in Melbourne before she moved to Europe to live in a Buddhist center and took celibate vows at age 29. She served as the personal attendant to many great Tibetan masters, including HH the Dalai Lama. …


When army surgeon Rhonda Cornum came to, she wondered, Am I alive?

Her Black Hawk helicopter had been shot down over the Iraqi desert in 1991. She crawled out of the wreck only to see five Iraqi soldiers towering above her with pointed rifles. Cornum, dazed from blood loss and with both arms broken, was helpless when her captors subjected her to a mock execution, sexually assaulted her, and kept her prisoner in a bunker for a week. Her experience included nearly all the elements psychiatric manuals list as likely causes for posttraumatic stress — and yet, after her release, she surprised psychiatrists by reflecting on the things that had improved. …


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Ever since I watched my grandfather succeed as a businessman and father of five despite his crippling injury from polio, I’ve wondered: How is it possible that some people emerge from pain fortified? Throughout my decades as a reporter, when I visited tsunami victims and torture survivors, these questions tugged at me: Why do some people fall apart after catastrophes while others not only survive, but thrive? What makes the difference?

When I found myself bedridden in my twenties, with a virus that sucked the life out of me, this quandary became deeply personal. How could I become whole again?

When suffering strikes, running the opposite direction as fast as we can seems to make so much sense, doesn’t it? …

About

Michaela Haas

Award-winning author, reporter & consultant. Author of Bouncing Forward, Crazy America, Dakini Power & Ghetto-Swinger. www.michaelahaas.com

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