Given America’s dominance on the Olympic world stage (thanks, Michael Phelps) and its love for contact sports (NFL players love hitting the iron, obviously) it’s a little bit surprising that Team USA isn’t a powerhouse in Olympic weightlifting. Americans, it seems, prefer to stick with spectator sports—track, gymnastics, swimming—while leaving weightlifting to athletes from eastern Europe and China.
Thanks to C.J. Cummings, though, that’s all starting to change.
The 16-year-old native of Beaufort, South Carolina, demolished the 69kg weight class at the International Weightlifting Federation World Youth Championships in Penang, Malaysia, on Saturday, winning all three gold medals—for the clean & jerk, the snatch, and the combined total—and setting a new world record in the process.
Cummings lifted 175kg on his first clean & jerk attempt. He then successfully lifted 182kg (401 lbs.) on his second attempt, breaking the 180kg record he set back in June and winning his first gold medal of the event. He then snatched 130kg (286 lbs.) and 135kg (297 lbs.); although he failed his third attempt at 138kg, his 135kg lift was still good enough for gold. Cummings’ combined total of 317kg (698 lbs.), which matched his existing youth world record set at the IWF Junior World Championships in June, netted him his third gold. Cummings’ record-tying total beat the second-place mark, from Iran’s Hussein Soltani, by an astounding 23kg—a huge margin in weightlifting.
Here’s a look at both his lifts, courtesy of IWF’s Instagram account:
Let it be known: Find this guy a barbell, and he will #WinAllTheGolds.
The World Championship win is a major step forward for Cummings, who has rapidly ascended the ranks as one of Team USA’s brightest young athletes—a Katie Ledecky of the weightlifting platform, one who has already competed against the best in the nation even though he’s not even out of high school. Cummings’ June win at the Junior Worlds was America’s first junior worlds title in 16 years. (For the sake of comparison: When Oscar Chaplin III won the U.S.’s last junior worlds title, Cummings hadn’t even been born yet.) He also won the 2015 national youth championship with a total of 306kg, and was the youngest of nearly 700 athletes at the world championships in November 2015, according to Team USA.
He also competed in the Olympic trials in an attempt to make the U.S. weightlifting team, but ultimately placed 10th overall, just short of the eighth-place ranking required by USA Weightlifting to qualify for the Pan-American Games.
Still, his rapid rise in the weightlifting ranks—adding 11kg to a total in a matter of months is phenomenal—bodes well for Cummings’ future in the sport. Team USA’s site calls him the “leading edge of USA Weightlifting’s youth development efforts,” with an unquestioned eye on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
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