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CJ Cummings doesn’t let hurricane disruption weigh him down

CJ Cummings on setting world record

Beaufort weightlifter CJ Cummings, 16, talks, on Nov. 2, 2016, about setting the new youth world record for the clean and jerk of 182kg/401lb at the 2016 Youth Worlds weightlifting competition in Penang, Malaysia.
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Beaufort weightlifter CJ Cummings, 16, talks, on Nov. 2, 2016, about setting the new youth world record for the clean and jerk of 182kg/401lb at the 2016 Youth Worlds weightlifting competition in Penang, Malaysia.

The good news is that CJ Cummings and his family didn’t suffer any significant damage when Hurricane Matthew struck the Lowcountry last month. But there was that pile of dirty laundry to address, and no power to take it on.

Minor inconvenience? Perhaps, but less so when you have three days to get it clean and back into a suitcase for a trip literally halfway around the world. And the Beaufort teen still needed to get back in the gym to knock off any rust from three days in a hotel room — but not so much as to invite fatigue.

Not exactly a weightlifter’s prescribed routine before a competition.

Cummings still came home from the World Youth Championships in Malaysia with three gold medals and another world youth record.

“It pretty much met everything I was hoping to accomplish,” said Cummings, who returned stateside last Thursday.

Disruption? What disruption?

“He has such a mindset of going with the flow, letting things happen,” coach Ray Jones said with a grin. “They’re not too big in his mind. He lets it just go with the flow. That’s the way he’s been pretty much his whole life.”

Right now, anyway, it’ll take more than six days of upheaval to knock Cummings much off his game. Factor in the World Junior Championships in June, and his past two competitions have yielded six gold medals and four world records in his weight class.

His newest mark is 182 kilograms (401 pounds) in the clean and jerk, not only helping Cummings dust all comers in Malaysia but also a U.S. record at any level. Combined with his performance in the snatch, he also tied his own record for total weight at 317 kg (698 pounds).

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Cummings said, “but I’m pretty sure one of these days it will.”

It certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed elsewhere, as Jones gets a kick out of watching how the Beaufort teen continues to grow in the sport’s spotlight. In nations where weightlifting holds a higher profile, fans quickly have become drawn to the young lifter’s success.

“In these other countries, they don’t have the NFL and that other stuff,” Jones said. “But if you’re setting records in an Olympic sport, you’re a rock star. You watch the way they look at him — ‘How is this possible?’ It’s pretty neat to see.”

For Cummings, the biggest challenge may have been simply getting through the days leading to arriving in Malaysia. It was eight days before their departure that evacuations were ordered ahead of Hurricane Matthew.

Cummings and his family wound up in Macon, Ga., watching TV coverage like so many others. They were relieved to find their home undamaged from the storm — as was his training base at CrossFit Beaufort.

“This place was perfectly fine,” he said. “I got three days, I think, then we left.”

The down time back home also gave Cummings a chance to get his medals out of a dresser drawer and on display. “I was bored because we had no power,” he said, “so I just hung them up on my wall.”

Nor was it necessarily a bad thing, he said, to be away from the gym for three consecutive days.

“Coming up to a competition, it’s better to be fresh,” Cummings said. “This made me even fresher, so it was kind of perfect for the competition.”

Jones noted, though, that his lifter didn’t seem to have the same spark as in other competitions. After Cummings made his opening weight in the clean and jerk, they audibled to not wait until his final lift to attempt the record.

“For him, it was actually a pretty ugly lift,” Jones recalled. “He made it and he came off (the platform) and I’m telling him, ‘You know you can do more, because you just made that lift. You got three white lights (for a good lift), but it was ugly. You do good technique, and you’ve got more right now.’ 

That figures to come at next month’s American Open in Orlando, where Cummings will lift on U.S. soil for the first time since the U.S. Olympic Trials in May. That was four world records ago, but Cummings knows it’ll be a lot less stressful than last time out.

“Seeing all my friends will be pretty cool,” Cummings said. “It’s a place where I’ll get to hang out with my friends, take some pictures with fans. It’s a lot more relaxed.”

Jeff Shain: 843-706-8123, @jeffshain