By Mike McCombs
“THIS JUST IN, CJ NOW HAS A YEAR AND FOUR MONTHS TO MAKE HIMSELF THAT MUCH BETTER!”
That was the text message Team Beaufort coach Ray Jones sent to The Island News at 9:09 a.m. on Monday, March 30.
Jones had just learned that the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo had been moved to the summer of 2021 as a result of the worldwide COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak.
And C.J. is C.J Cummings, the 19-year-old weightlifting phenom from Beaufort who had been waiting four years since missing out on the 2016 U.S. Olympic team to compete on the world’s biggest stage.
Cummings, the four-time defending Junior World Champion and the defending Pan American Champion in the 73-kilogram weight class, is the No. 1 weightlifter in the United States and ranked fifth in the world. The Olympics were a lock for Cummings.
Unlike his coach, he was justifiably disappointed, at least at first.
“At first, I just wanted (the Olympics) to happen,” Cummings said. “I had been waiting for four years and I was a little upset. But after it sank in, I think it will be good to have an entire year to train and get even better.”
After it sank in … and he talked to Jones.
“It’s going to make him more mature,” Jones said. “He’s going to be better with that, with another year of training. For them to pump the brakes and put it on hold for a year is a good thing.”
Jones also believes, with the field virtually locked in, and all eyes on the top competitors, it increases the chances of a level playing field, at least as far as doping goes.
“The countries that are dirty, they’re going to be watching them hard,” Jones said. “My guys welcome the scrutiny.”
Cummings, whose parents Savasha and Clarence Sr. plan on making the trip to Japan, now finds himself with nothing immediate for which to train.
He is not in a training cycle because everything has been canceled for the next three to four months, he said. His next competition wouldn’t be until the end of the year.
“I’m just building. It’s not hard, I’m just getting better,” Cummings said. “I’m not competing with anybody else, I’m competing with myself to get better.
Aside from training he says he’s not doing much. Exercising and hanging around the house.
“I like to maybe go out and drive around,” he said.
Jones said he’s not worried about Cummings’ down time.
“If it were some other athletes I know … I’ve got another one who is stressed out to no end. C.J. just isn’t built that way, Jones said. “He’s even more focused. He’s not the norm. He never has been.
“I’m sure there are things that he holds in, but you sure don’t see it in his performance.”