Beaufort Today -

Cummings looks to defend Junior World Championship

  • Cummings moments before a lift in Thailand. Photo by Andy Blaida.

It’s become the norm for C.J. Cummings. A few times a year, the Beaufort weightlifting phenom takes his talents to the national or world stage, breaks records and goes home a champion.

That was the case at April’s Youth World Championships in Thailand. The 16-year old broke his own clean and jerk record with a score of 185 kilograms on his way to the overall title.

But according to Cummings’ coach Ray Jones, the real story coming of the competition was that Cummings wasn’t close to his peak form.

“I can definitely tell if he looks like he’s on or not, and that was what was neat about (Thailand). He was definitely not at his sharpest,” Jones said.

The 37-year coach said his protégé was affected by a number of things, including hot weather and food he claimed was “not what you’d consider the best food for an American youth to be eating.”

Still, Cummings made another convincing argument that he has surpassed lifters his own age. The Youth Worlds consists of 16-17 year-olds.

“Nothing was like the norm where you’d have your best-case scenario to be able to perform, but for him to still make the lifts was one of the neatest things,” Jones said.

“It’s a lesson for him. He knows now that even on a day where he’s not his sharpest, he can still be mentally tough enough to pull through and make it.”

Jones was quick to acknowledge that may not work June 15-23 at the Junior World Championships in Tokyo.

Cummings and Jones will leave June 11 for their first trip to Japan. The tournament consists of mostly 19-20 year-olds.

Cummings is the defending champion, but he’ll need to have his A-game against a tougher field than he faced in Thailand.

“It’s common sense that he’d be one of the favorites going in, but nothing is given,” Jones said. “We’re going all the way across the world and then there’s all these other factors that come into play and you have to focus in and max out your performance.

“He did shock everybody and win this last year, but from one year to the next, with what China, Russia, Japan and a few of these other countries bring with 19- and 20-year-olds, you really have to take care of business on what you can control.”

Jones reiterated his old mantra of competing against oneself, breaking personal records “one kilo at a time.”

In the case of Cummings and other Americans, that’s not just lip service; it’s how they have to train.

In countries where weightlifting is one of the more popular sports, athletes have the advantage of going to head-to-head with other premier lifters in the gym on a daily basis.

“It’s all about that focus of taking care of breaking your personal record. It’s about you beating your record on a regular basis,” Jones said.

“If you can stay in that mindset of, ‘I’ve got to keep improving my personal best,’ it kind of takes care of everything else. And he’s very mentally tough to be able to do that.”

Jones said training for Tokyo has been business as usual, which is good news considering Cummings’s affinity for routine in a sport that demands cyclical training.

“He’s just training for this cycle and he’s very healthy both physically and mentally. He’s on his game right now,” Jones said.

The team is going to take precautions to ensure Cummings is feeling 100 percent for his lifts this time around.

“When we get there, it’s all about taking care of business,” Jones said. “We’ll get there about a week early so he can get accustomed to the time change and other things involved with traveling. That’s the biggest thing right now, trying to make sure that he goes into it really fresh.”

Though they’ll be trying to avoid distractions, Cummings and Jones will find it hard to ignore the fact that the 2020 Olympics are set to take place in Tokyo.

“Everything that we do — one little step here, one little step there — it’s all about the big picture. Everything is geared toward 2020. And the 2020 Olympics are in Tokyo. So that’s going to be part of it,” Jones said.

“We’re going to scope it out and try to get a little more comfortable in that part of the world and hopefully take care of business there.”