WEIGHTLIFTING: Beaufort’s CJ Cummings falls short of podium in first Olympics

It was a fantastic effort from CJ Cummings in his Olympic debut, but his quest for a medal in Tokyo came up short. 

The Beaufort native placed ninth on Wednesday in the men’s 73kg weightlifting competition with a combined total of 325kg, converting two of his six lifts in the event as China’s Shi Zhiyong took the gold medal. 

The tone was set in the wrong direction on Cummings’ first attempt at the snatch, as the Beaufort High alumnus was unsuccessful on his opening lift at 145kg. After walking back to the practice room to rethink his strategy, Cummings came right back out to try again. It looked like more disappointment as the judges initially ruled a no-lift, but the call was overturned to put the 21-year-old on the board. However, a missed opportunity on his third attempt at 150kg put him at the bottom of the standings heading into the clean and jerk. 

After nailing his initial lift of the second phase at 180kg, Cummings looked determined to set his sights on converting a higher weight to push for a medal. The clean was nearly flawless on his 190kg attempt, but he couldn’t finish the jerk as the bar tumbled to the floor. His last-gasp effort at a world-record 198kg weight then fell flat, ending his Tokyo medal hopes with a ninth-place finish.

Zhiyong, the world record holder in both lifts coming into the event, set a new combined mark of 364kg, which bested Venezuelan silver medalist Julio Ruben Mayora Pernia by a whopping 18kg. Indonesia’s Rahmat Erwin Abdullah finished 22kg off the pace to earn the bronze.

Despite the disappointing setback, Cumming’s weightlifting career has only just begun. At age 21, he’ll likely be in Paris in 2024 before possibly having an opportunity to compete in his home country’s 2028 Games in Los Angeles. 

The Lowco spotlight in Tokyo now shifts to Mahassen Hala, who also trained with coach Ray Jones in Beaufort and will represent Lebanon, becoming the first female Olympic weightlifter in the country’s history. The 31-year-old will take the stage on Sunday at 1:50 p.m. (12:50am EDT).

By Wes Kerr

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