Meet the S.C. teen dubbed the "LeBron James of weightlifting"

BEAUFORT, S.C. -- At the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, American weightlifters carry a heavy burden. The U.S. men's team hasn't won a gold medal in 56 years.

But coach Zygmunt Smalcerz says that streak may be ending -- thanks to one, incredible lifter.

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C.J. Cummings
CBS News

"His muscles, they are so fantastic. This is what he got from the God," Smalcerz said.

So where is this Hercules? You won't believe. He's a student at Beaufort High School in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Fifteen-year-old C.J. Cummings looks just another kid. In fact, everyone thought he was just another kid -- until 3 years ago, when he walked into his first national men's tournament.

"They thought I was just a spectator," said C.J. But he ended up getting second place -- at the age of 12.

Since then, he has been dubbed the LeBron James of U.S. weightlifting. But even that may be selling him short. Last August, this 5'4", 150-pound kid, C.J., attempted the unimaginable.

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C.J. completing the big lift

C.J. Cummings

He lifted 385 pounds. Picture a kitchen stove, on each end of the bar. No American in his weight class had ever done that much in the clean and jerk -- at least, not until C.J. came along.

An American men's record, set by a boy. After that lift, his coach, Ray Jones, said a lot of people didn't believe the reports.

Jones said if he hadn't seen it with his own eyes, he wouldn't have believe it either.

To that end, a local professor of sports medicine set up a bunch of cameras and sensors to try to figure out exactly how C.J. is doing this. He found nothing special in his technique, proving that C.J. was either sent here directly from the planet Krypton, or he's just plain strong.

Coaches say he's still at least 10 years from reaching his full-potential, and probably another four until his first Olympics. Until then, he'll be busy inspiring young weightlifters across the country -- and exercising a great deal, of patience.

"I just want to take it as far as I can go, hopefully get a gold medal for the U.S.," said C.J.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.