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More than a diagnosis: Georgia powerlifting athlete breaks national and world records

A high school powerlifter -- who has set records in the sport -- has been gearing up for his next major competition. 

Taylor Cheek’s coaches started setting up weights inside the Banks County High School Wellness Center on Wednesday. They were prepping for the high school sophomore to run through the three powerlifting disciplines: squat, bench press and deadlift.

It’s the drive. He never gives up. Even if he has a bad day,” said one of Taylor’s coaches. “A lot of people get angry. They’ll give up, they’ll walk away and they’ll say, ‘oh I’ll come back another day.’ With him, it’s just 'what’s next?' He doesn’t quit. To him it’s just, 'I didn’t make it that time, I’ll get it next time.'”

Taylor began powerlifting two years ago. Since then, his dad said he’s broken and set both national and international records.

“When Taylor was younger, his brother and sister would get to play sports,” Reid Cheek said, as he started to get choked up. “And he didn’t get to compete at that level. And this is something that he’s found, and he’s carved his own way.”

Reid and Sara Cheek, Taylor’s parents, found out Taylor had Down syndrome when he was born.

“He’s only made everybody's life better,” Sara said. “I mean, we're all better because of Taylor.”

Both Sara and Reid said Taylor really came into his own when he started powerlifting and competing in the Special Olympics.

“That gave him so much confidence when he first started powerlifting…and it was like a different kid,” said Sara. “And it made his peers see him differently. I mean, they already loved him. And everybody's always been so supportive and accepting. But it made them look at him different. Like he's more able and more capable than what they realized.”

Sara said, as a mom, that realization was incredible.

“To just know that people see that he's more than a diagnosis means everything. Because the way you treat people determines what they believe in themselves. So for them to treat him like he can do anything makes him believe that he can do anything,” said Sara.

Taylor is not one to let anything limit him.

“That's actually a mantra that goes along with the Down Syndrome community is ‘don't limit me,’” said Sara.

Taylor proved that and then some on Wednesday, breaking two of his personal records, or as he calls them "high scores," during practice.

“Were you proud of yourself today?” 11Alive’s Molly Oak asked Taylor after his practice.

Taylor, smiling and nodding, answered "yes."

Taylor’s next major competition is nationals in June. If he performs well, he’ll qualify for World Championships in Ireland.

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