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Weighlifting Hopeful CJ Cummings Dishes On His Favorite Holiday Traditions

By CJ Cummings | Dec. 25, 2020, 11 a.m. (ET)

CJ Cummings poses in a Santa hat in front of his Christmas tree on Dec. 22, 2020 in Beaufort, S.C.

The Holidays are one of my favorite times of year. I grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina, and although I don’t live in my parents’ house anymore, I still live in Beaufort. My two brothers, Omar and Demone, still live here too, and the same with my older sister Crystal, who’s the one who got us all into weightlifting when we were kids. My grandparents, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and cousins live in Beaufort too. 

During the Holidays, we usually do traditional Holiday stuff. We go Christmas shopping, and on Christmas morning, everybody gets up and the kids open their gifts. Then we cook and sit around and pretty much hang out as a family. We enjoy Christmas day with love, laughter, and cheer.

Since we’re in the south, my mom, Savasah, cooks soul food. I’m not a picky eater, so pretty much anything my mom makes is good. We usually eat collard greens and rice, macaroni, maybe red rice, and my mom will probably cook a ham, plus cookies, cakes, chocolate. I like it all.

My favorite Christmas food is her chocolate chip cookies. I honestly do not know her secret or if she does anything special with her cookies. They’re just really good.

I don’t train on Christmas day, but I’ll get back to the gym with my coach and teammates right after Christmas. I’ll have to burn off all my mom’s great cooking!

Later on Christmas day, we usually have like a family reunion. We usually go to my grandma’s house, and we all hang out and play games. It’s like game night. My favorite is charades. Sometimes the adults exchange Secret Santa gifts. I’m technically an adult but not old enough to do the gift exchange yet. Maybe next year!

In a normal year, we also like to help our church with a Christmas gift donation. Hopefully, we can do that again next year.

Between Christmas and New Year’s, I’ll go back to the gym and train with my coach and teammates. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, we couldn’t train in the gym last spring. So instead, we went to one of my teammate’s houses and trained in his garage. I loved it because it was a different environment. We left the garage door open, and it was pretty cool to train outside and have fresh air rather than being in the gym. Then we went back to the gym in June and have trained there ever since.

For New Year’s, we crank up the Holiday traditions again. We get a bunch of fireworks, like firecrackers, sparklers and the big aerial fireworks that light up the sky, and on New Year’s Eve, we like to set them off at my parents’ house. It’s a good way to ring in the New Year.

In 2020, I did all six of the Olympic qualifying competitions, and I led the U.S. in the 73-kg weight class. The qualifying period was set to end on April 30, 2020, so I have not yet been officially named to the 2020 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team. They called the season short last March. But I am currently ranked No. 5 in the world in my weight class for Tokyo 2020 qualification, so I am set to go. I just have to compete in another qualifying meet between now and April 30, 2021. I’m 20 years old but still considered a junior weightlifter, so I will get a bunch of competitions in before then, like the 2021 IWF Junior World Championships in early March in Saudi Arabia.

My goal for 2021 is to self-improve, to do better than I did in 2020, take care of my body, still progress in the sport of weightlifting and progress in life, doing new things, having fun, and going out to compete and represent my country and do better than what I did this year. 

For the world, I wish for people to not just get back, but to be better in whatever they were doing before the pandemic hit. Like the people who lost their jobs, I hope they find a job in 2021, but a better job than what they had before. And I wish that people love and enjoy themselves and not feel bad about 2020 but to look for better days and look to do even better in 2021.

CJ Cummings

CJ Cummings is a four-time junior world champion weightlifter and two-time youth world champion. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in the 73-kilogram weight class and fifth in the world. Before the coronavirus pandemic competition last spring, he had met the qualification criteria to be nominated to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team.

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Clarence (CJ) Cummings, Jr.