When International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced that the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo would be postponed until 2021 on March 24, CJ Cummings felt a bit of disappointment.
Everything he had worked for over the past few years was suddenly pulled right from under him with the kind of force that Cummings generates when throwing around ridiculous amounts of weight. But this was not going to affect his outlook on what another year could do. The goal hasn’t changed, even if the schedule has thanks to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
“It affected a lot since I was geared up and ready for this summer, to be a big year for me going to the Olympics, but with the unforeseen circumstances I just have to wait another year,” Cummings said. “Just have to take it one step at a time and instead of looking at it in a negative light, I know I’ve got another year for me to get better prepared. I am 20 now and I’m still young, this is more time for me to train and get better.”
However, the surefire future Olympian showed no signs of rust while putting up astounding numbers in the USA Weightlifting Qualifier held at The Foundry in Beaufort on Saturday. Cummings had already checked all of the boxes by making weight and hitting 90 percent of his personal best, needing only three lifts to snatch 150kg (330 lbs).
“He hit that (150kg) so good,” Team Beaufort coach Ray Jones said. “I was going to shut him down, but he did it so good and he was wanting to do more, so we went ahead and gave it a shot at the (unofficial world) record with 155kg.”
Although Cummings came up short in his last attempt, he again posted impressive numbers in the clean and jerk. Aiming to top 174kg (383 lbs) to hit 90 percent of his personal best, Cummings successfully cleaned 175kg on his third attempt, then moved up to 185kg (407 lbs) and took two attempts at 190kg (418 lbs) before calling it a night. His personal record sat just four kilos away at 194kg (427 lbs) which represent the junior world record and senior American record for the 73kg weight class.
Teammate Dade Stanley put up astonishing numbers as well, snatching 134kg (295 lbs) — nearly 96 percent of his personal record of 140kg (308 lbs) — and completing a 160kg (352 lbs) clean and jerk before attempting a new PR of 165kg (363 lbs).
“For my two guys, CJ Cummings and Dade Stanley, they’ve already put themselves towards making teams internationally…so for these two, today was basically just a training day,” Jones said. “Today we basically just backed off their training for the first part of this week and said let’s go ahead and do a heavy day, and I was very pleasantly surprised with both (CJ and Dade).”
Stanley, a recent Beaufort High School graduate and future Clemson Tiger, was so successful in 2019 that he was awarded Youth Athlete of the Year by USA Weightlifting. Competing in the Arnold Weightlifting Championship prior to the shutdown, Stanley had a tremendous day, notching new records in the snatch and the clean and jerk and setting himself up nicely for his first season in the junior division.
“It felt good,” Stanley said. “I have been waiting for another chance to hit another PR. … It would have been nice to get it clean there because I have cleaned 170kg before, just didn’t hit the jerk. But it was a long day, and happy to be able to try again.”
It was also a big day for the Foundry, which took center stage for worldwide weightlifting fans eager for some competition — even if it’s virtual. For the gym’s owner, Abe Stem, it’s a point of pride to say two world-class athletes train at his gym, right alongside martial arts classes and average people getting in a workout.
“It’s not just a gym for someone looking for a fitness center or someone looking to do competitive lifting, it’s a gym for everyone,” Stem said. “I reached out to Coach Ray with Team Beaufort Weightlifting and asked what they would think about transitioning into our space and I’m really excited to have them here to see what they can do.”
Story by Brackin Lambert