C.J. Cummings followed his older sister into the weightlifting gym when he was barely able to walk. When he was 10, C.J. began lifting alongside his 11-year old brother, Omar.
Now, at 17-years old C.J. is the number-one ranked male weightlifter in the United States traveling to his second senior world championship competition.
I caught up with C.J.’s coach, Ray Jones, just hours before they left their home in Beaufort, South Carolina to fly to the 2017 IWF World Championships in Anaheim, California.
Q: What does it mean to coach the number one weightlifter in the United States?
It’s very hard for me to separate C.J. as a person from his status as a weightlifter. I have been with C.J. since he was a little kid. When I look at him, I see someone I want to guide and protect. It’s way more than just weightlifting. It’s about the kind of person C.J. is becoming and knowing that I had a hand in helping him become that person.
Q: C.J. is sponsored by more companies than ever before. Is all of the sponsorship putting extra pressure on him to perform?
No. C.J. had the same experience as a 15-year old when he attended the 2015 World Championships in Houston. He is a veteran of this. He knows how to perform under pressure.
Q: How does C.J. stay calm with all of the publicity that surrounds him today?
C.J. will stay in his room until he lifts. He is sharing a room with Harrison Maurus. The two of them grew up together on the weightlifting scene, and they are friends. After he lifts, C.J. will talk to the media and whoever wants to talk to him, but beforehand he needs to have his own space so he can relax.
Q: What sets C.J. apart from other lifters you have coached over the years?
C.J. is the whole package. I have coached other talented athletes, but none that have had the work ethic, mental toughness, self-belief and commitment that C.J. has. He committed to the sport at an early age and consistently puts in the hard work required to be the best.
One thing that sets C.J. apart from other lifters is his perspective. Going into competitions, he is able to stay calm. He knows that no matter what happens, his friends and family will still love him and support him. He can perform in high pressure situations because he knows that everything is going to be okay no matter what.
Q: I know that C.J. will be debuting his new squat jerk at the World Championships on Friday. Is he feeling confident about the change?
Yes. The squat jerk is so natural for him, and he loves doing it. It makes him more motivated to do a better clean because he wants to set up for a good squat jerk.
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TENACIOUS TUESDAY , “trusting the process” – Senior Worlds – two (2) weeks – 160-170-180 – solid 👍 @cj__cummings @liftinglife @z_lowry7 @johannastrick58 @crossfitbeaufort @teddyb__sc @kaelastephano @mahassenhala @natarem @meredithalwine @tr_mva @miz.marissa @davidpurser91 @dade.stanley @bray_youngz @everyday_lifters @benhwawesome @lightning_lam @beckyfec56 @jules.mfb @megan_seegert @tenacious_strength @youthweightlifting @joesbarbell @mgattone64 @usa_weightlifting @a.phil @the_shala_mcmillan #train #weightlifting #cleanandjerk #justtraining #worlds #divergent
Q: What does C.J. hope to accomplish at the World Championships this weekend?
We are going into the competition to break personal records. When you chase someone else, you lose energy that could be focused on your own performance. The only thing you can control is what you do.
C.J.’s training has been good, so we’re looking forward to having fun and setting some new personal records. And the great thing is . . . when C.J. sets a new personal record, it is also a new world record.
C.J. will be lifting at 7:55 PM PST on Friday, December 1. Download the ESPN app to watch C.J.’s performance live!
Photos courtesy of lifting.life.