15-Year-Old Weightlifting Prodigy CJ Cummings Is Youngest At World Championships

By Brandon Penny | Nov. 23, 2015, 5:03 a.m. (ET)
CJ Cummings competes in the men's 69 kg. C session at the 2015 IWF World Weightlifting Championships on Nov. 22, 2015 in Houston.


HOUSTON – CJ Cummings attempted to break the youth men’s world record Sunday night at the IWF World Weightlifting Championships and he failed. But it’s OK. Cummings is only 15.

The high school sophomore has two years left to surpass the 69 kg. clean and jerk record of 173 kg., and he’s confident he will do it the next chance he has. After all, Cummings already beat that mark when he won the 2015 U.S. title in August and lifted 175 kg., though the result did not count as a youth world record because it was not at an international meet.

It’s no wonder Cummings has been labeled the LeBron James of weightlifting by The Wall Street Journal and the Michael Jordan of weightlifting by a coach.

Click here to watch the live stream of the world championships.

The Beaufort, South Carolina, native is the youngest athlete in any weight class at the world championships – out of nearly 750 from more than 100 countries – and he is one of the most impressive. Cummings has already set more than 18 national records (he says he lost count after 18) in his young career, including one senior record he still owns.

That record came at last year’s national championships when Cummings lifted 153 kg. in the 62 kg. clean and jerk. Yes, a 14-year-old lifted more than any other 62 kg. American man in history.

“It was pretty cool, I liked it,” the child prodigy said of his first senior record. “We were in Salt Lake City, Utah, and that was a nice place. I had a lot of supporters, the crowd was hyped so I was just in the moment and it happened.”

At this year’s nationals, Cummings set the 69 kg. clean and jerk record, as well as the total record. Both records were passed tonight by 27-year-old Alex Lee, who competed in the session after Cummings. Lee snatched 140 kg. and cleared 176 kg. in the clean and jerk, for a total of 316 kg, setting three American records.

Cummings came to Houston with the goal of topping the youth world record, and after hitting a personal-record snatch of 132 kg. and easily lifting 166 kg. on his first clean and jerk attempt, the record seemed within reach. He attempted 174 next, but failed on his second and third lifts.

“I’m pretty bummed, but later down the road I’ll have another opportunity to hit it,” said Cummings, who believes he will hit it at the 2016 junior Pan American championships or youth world championships.

He said he doesn’t mind being the youngest athlete in the competition.

“I’m used to it, but this one is different because it’s a whole bunch of other grown men from foreign countries but it was pretty neat, because I’m so little,” Cummings said.

Cummings started weightlifting at age 10 when his older sister, a former weightlifter herself, brought him to the gym because he had nothing to do that summer.

Five short years later and Cummings is being christened the LeBron and the MJ of his sport, titles he says are flattering but that have put no added pressure on him.

“I’m pretty much a low-key guy so I don’t like to be put out there, but it’s all right,” he explained. “I don’t have a problem with it.”

Cummings says his talent is “for God, so I just lift for him and I put him first, and he’ll lead me down the right path.”

He works out two hours each day during the school week, focusing primarily on his shoulders and legs with his three coaches at Beaufort CrossFit, then practices his snatch and clean and jerk lifts on Sundays.

The teenage phenom is also being touted as a future Olympic medalist, something the U.S. has not had in more than 30 years on the men’s side and another label Cummings doesn’t mind, especially since it’s one of his goals.

“I want to go as far as I can go and hopefully have an Olympic medal,” he said of his weightlifting aspirations.