When it comes to weightlifting, it’s fair to say C.J. Cummings has performed beyond his years.
The 14-year-old from Beaufort has a stranglehold on the American Junior record book despite having more than five years remaining before he ages out of the classification when he turns 20.
As if the records weren’t enough, now Cummings has a chance to be recognized with the all-time greats in American amateur sports.
Cummings has been nominated for the Sullivan Award, one of the highest, if not the highest, awards for an amateur athlete in the United States.
Older than the Heisman Trophy, the Sullivan Award, presented by the Amateur Athletic Union in honor of its founder, James E. Sullivan, honors “the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.”
Presented annually since 1930, the award is given based on the qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. According to the AAU, the award goes beyond an athletes’ athletic accomplishments and honors those who have shown strong moral character on and off the field of play.
Team Beaufort coach Ray Jones said the nomination came from Phil Andrews, the director of events and programs for USA Weightlifting.
Savasah Cummings, C.J.’s mother, said they were surprised when they received the notification of his nomination. Savasah said she didn’t know much about the award.
“Not a whole lot,” she said, “just the little snippet they put in the email.”
A handful of the award’s previous winners are Bobby Jones, Doc Blanchard, Wilma Rudolph, Bill Bradley, Mark Spitz, Bruce Jenner, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Peyton Manning, Michelle Kwan, Michael Johnson, Michael Phelps and Tim Tebow.
Upon hearing the names, Savasah Cummings was surprised.
“Yeah,” she said before a long silence. “I didn’t even realize.”
From the nominations, 10 semifinalists will be selected and listed in an online voting platform in March. From those 10, five finalists will be selected to participate in the award ceremony April 19 at the New York Athletic Club in New York City.
Savasah Cummings said she is excited about the nomination. Like a typical teenager, though, she said C.J. didn’t necessarily share here elation.
“He could care less,” she said.
Despite his recent success at the Junior National Championships in Oklahoma City, where C.J. won gold, and the nomination for such a prestigious award, Savasah Cummings isn’t worried that the added attention will affect he son.
“When he had all the other folks here from the Washington Post and all, it didn’t faze him at all,” she said. “He just hasn’t realized how big some of these things are yet.”