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The “LeBron James of Weightlifting” knows that the Olympic future of the sport is in the dark | Weightlifting

CJ Cummings certainly has better days ahead of him, but whether or not they include the Olympics is an open question and a matter beyond his sinewy grasp.

The youngest entrant in Wednesday’s 73kg men’s weightlifting final, the 23-time American record holder and two-time youth world champion, turned 21 last month and could peak in Paris, provided his sport doesn’t drop as much as his own weight .

Weightlifting is a classic Olympic event: athletes have hoisted heavy objects since the first Games in 1896. But in the era of surfing, skateboarding, BMX, and sport climbing, perhaps traditionally a more polite way of saying out of date is.

And few, if any, sports are more depraved; The manufacturers of anabolic steroids could hardly have wished for more loyal customers over the years. More than a quarter of all doping offenses ever recorded at the Olympics concerned weightlifting, with 49 athletes having their medals withdrawn, according to AFP.

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, warned, citing “extreme concern” about the standard of governance and anti-doping measures that seem to be softer rather than stricter – not to mention rampant corruption – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach warned in February that the future of weightlifting without reform is in doubt.

The sport has tentative status for 2024 and earlier this month the IOC voted to reduce the number of weightlifting competitions in Paris. In Rio there were 260 participants, in Paris there will be only 120.

If the feats of strength in London in 2012 appeared superhuman – well, they were. When re-examining samples from the men’s 94kg tournament in 2016, six lifters tested positive for banned substances, including all three medal winners. The results were revised in September and Saeid Mohammadpour of Iran, who originally finished fifth, was awarded gold.

Tomasz Zielinski from Poland, previously back in ninth place, advanced to bronze. Zielinski’s belated feel-good story was somewhat undermined, however, as he was sent home from Rio a month earlier for failing a drug test. Just like his brother Adrian.

The outlook is bleak, but American weightlifting is enjoying a renaissance despite a setback in Tokyo for Cummings, its biggest name. The team of four men and four women in Japan is the largest Olympic weightlifting contingent in the United States since 1996.

The Wall Street Journal anointed Cummings, who hails from the pretty seaside town of Beaufort, South Carolina, as the LeBron James of Weightlifting in 2015. His youthful vigor was so amazing that a university research lab sought the source of his power when he was 14. ESPN reported and concluded that his technique was unusually consistent and efficient, and his short thigh bones and bent legs helped him pull the bar up quickly.

Cummings looked uncomfortable in the cavernous auditorium under the bright lights on Wednesday, languishing far from the medal battle after the tearing round. On his first attempt, he paused, leaned over, pursed his lips, and lifted the 150-pound bar over his shoulders, but no higher. With his eyeballs bulging with the effort, he tried again: a clean lift, as good as after a jury briefing. On his third attempt, he settled on 150 kg, but almost immediately dropped the bar behind his back.

The clean and jerk segment started out more promising when Cummings lifted 180 kg, but an additional 10 kg exceeded him on the second attempt. He attempted an Olympic record of 198kg on his third and final attempt to win bronze, but he was barely able to lift the bar off the ground.

The next man, Shi Zhiyong from China, managed this weight. In addition to his Olympic record win, the 27-year-old won gold with a world record of 364 kg, well ahead of Venezuelan Julio Mayora, who celebrated his silver rank with a backflip. Cummings finished ninth.

“I’m stunned, it was a terrible achievement, but I just have to learn and grow from it,” he said. “I had some success at a young age, but this is a whole different league, this is the Big Boy League. I just have to train harder and get better.”

The Americans deserve some success. Sarah Robles took bronze in the women’s +75 kg category in Rio 2016 and was the first American female weightlifter to win an Olympic medal in 16 years. The men haven’t stood on the podium since Los Angeles ’84.

Even during the post-war heyday of the sport in the US, it was difficult for strength athletes to get into the mainstream. Before Norbert Schemansky ran for the Michigan House of Representatives with the slogan “Down with Junks, Drunks and Punks” in the 1960s, he set 15 world records and was the first American to win medals at four Olympic Games between 1948 and 1964.

Schemansky was arguably the strongest man in the world at his peak, able to brush and jerk off more than 400 pounds, but he enjoyed more respect in the Soviet Union than in his homeland, where he was fired from his manufacturing job he asked for a break from training. When he returned from Helsinki with a gold medal, only a porter who mispronounced his name recognized him at the airport.

Cummings undoubtedly awaits a better fate. “I think this is just the beginning for weightlifting in the US,” he said. “When Paris happens, it happens; If not, I just have to go to the next step. “

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