At the age of 13, C.J. Cummings made a decision that he says he still thanks himself for to this day. Out of Beaufort, South Carolina, he knew that there were only two ways to make it “big” using sports: football or basketball.
“So around that time I was playing football and I told my parents that I wanted to do Olympics weights full-time," Cummings told me. However, they responded, "Just give it one more year, I don't think you're 100% sure."
Oh, but he was.
"So, I did one more year of football, but after that I already knew what I wanted to do.”
Although his parents weren’t on board for the decision, Cummings truly believed that weightlifting could provide more opportunities than football. He had to make sure that belief came true.
Cummings joins the USA weightlifting team as a 23-time American record holder. He is a four-time Junior World Champion, two-time Youth World Champion, two-time Youth Pan American Champion and two-time Pan American Champion.
Most recently, Cummings took home a gold medal at 73 kilograms and set a new American snatch record of 155 kilograms at the rescheduled 2020 Pan American Weightlifting Championships in the Dominican Republic.
Is it just me or does he make all those movements look easy?
While heading to the Olympics comes with its pressures, 21-year-old and his coach Ray Jones would agree that his best skill, aside from lifting very heavy weights, is his ability to remain calm.
“You can get psyched up and get super nervous when you're about to go out and try to break your own record or break a world record and you have the crowd cheering you on,” Cummings said. “Sometimes, they'll have music, and everybody's so hyped up to see me make it so my ability to stay calm is my best skill."
He’s also a part of a stellar team of athletes who have a ton of experience on the American and World weightlifting level. He trained with Mattie Rogers, Harrison Maurus and Jordan Delacruz since before his teenage years and can’t wait to support everyone in Tokyo.
Speaking of his teenage years, as you can imagine, Cummings didn’t have the luxury of free time that you and I might remember having in high school. While he remembers making time for the big events like prom and important sporting events, there were many small moments with friends that he had to sacrifice, not mention being on a strict diet.
“As you grow up, you want to eat a lot, you know your body grows fast,” Cummings said. “But I had to cut down on that because I have to maintain my weight, so that was a big challenge.”
He said he didn’t miss out on the teen experience though but “it was definitely cut short.”
Between taking care of his body, training, work and school work, Cummings remembers not having time to hang out with friends after school or go to parties. He also travelled for competitions, making school work even harder to keep up with.
However, after looking at his weightlifting resume, it was worth it. The small-town kid is making it “big”, without football or basketball. When it comes to his career, Cummings has been calling his own shots for a while now and has no plans on slowing down.
He is certainly on his way to making a name for himself, possibly in Tokyo.
“There's no such thing as an overnight success, but this [the Olympics] is going to be a key moment where everybody sees me, and I guess that's when I'll be like a rising star."