By Victoria Hansenvhansen@abcnews4.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- Tate Mikell has always been athletic. He broke records in cross country at The Citadel, competed in triathlons and stayed in shape as part of his job as a Charleston City police officer.
But the 35-year-old never thought he would be a Special Olympics athlete.
"I was cleaning the house, actually vacuuming and I started getting a real bad headache," said Mikell.
Mikell had a stroke nine years ago. He underwent four brain surgeries. Doctors don't know how he lived.
"When he came out of six hours of surgery, he said I can't tell you why he's alive," said Tate's mom, Marcia. "It's nothing we did he said. There's definitely somebody who has a plan for this child."
"And I hung on to that," said Marcia Mikell.
"I just thought to myself how did this happen to me," said Tate Mikell. "I'm so physically active. How can this happen and stop me from doing what I've been doing all my life?"
Tate Mikell decided then he would not let his disability define him. He turned to his faith and training as a Citadel graduate to guide him.
"No matter how bad off you think you are, how deep a hole you think you're in, all you have to do is keep your head up, keep your faith in the Lord and keep taking steps forward and one day you'll step out of the hole you think you're in," he said. "I'm hanging on the edge right now. I just need to take a few more steps."
Tate Mikell took a leap at last week's national Special Olympics Competition in Princeton, N.J. He brought home three gold medals in swimming. This was just his sixth year swimming for South Carolina Special Olympics and his first national competition.
"I feel very comfortable when I'm in the water," said Tate Mikell.
He's been training especially hard this past year at the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department's Jones Center.
"Tate will definitely push the boundaries and he will do what he wants do do," said Coach Lauren Meyer. "You can't tell him no."
Tate's next goal -- to get a part time job and earn a little money of his own.