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USA Weightlifting Celebrates African-American Legends

February marks African-American History Month. To celebrate, USA Weightlifting highlighted some of the significant achievements of African-American athletes and contributors who have played a key part in the organization.

In no particular order, here are just a few of those legendary figures:

Cara Heads Slaughter  – Olympian & International Coach

California-born Heads-Slaughter made history in 2000 becoming the first African-American female athlete to represent the US in the Olympic Games, a feat not repeated until Jenny Arthur appeared at the Olympic Games in 2016.

Throwing was the first sport for Heads-Slaughter and her successful throwing career took her to the University of California-Berkeley to throw at the Division 1 level before turning her hand to Weightlifting and her eventual Olympic Games appearance.

Continually involved in the sport, Heads-Slaughter now runs a successful club in the Washington DC metropolitan area and is the first African-American woman (and only 2nd Woman) to make the ranking of International Coach, passing on her knowledge to the sport’s next generation.

Oscar Chaplin III

2016 Hall of Fame Inductee Oscar Chaplin III is one of a large number of lifters to have come from the town of Savannah in Georgia. However, not many are quite as outstanding as Oscar Chaplin III.  Chaplin became Junior World Champion in 1999 before making his first Olympic Games appearance at Athens 2004.

While Chaplin’s career was cut short due to a major injury, he returned to the sport in 2014 and can now be found contributing to tomorrow’s lifters as a coach.



Jenny Arthur – Olympian

Growing up in Gainesville in the state of Georgia, Arthur became a notable high school athlete before her explosive nature was noticed by Team Georgia coach Stan Luttrell III.

Arthur quickly found her way to the Olympic Training Center under the guiding eye of Olympic Champion Zygmunt Smalcerz. In 2013, she would go on to win a Silver Medal at the IWF Junior World Championship while her consistency over the quad saw her punch her ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she finished 6th.

Arthur continues to reside in Colorado Springs and represented the USA at both the 2017 and 2018 IWF World Championships on her journey and ambition to make a second Olympic Games appearance in Tokyo.

Wes Barnett  – Olympian, World Medalist, Administrator

2x Olympian Barnett was a star Basketball in his home state of Missouri before being spotted by Hall of Fame Coach Dennis Snethen for his explosive abilities. Barnett committed to Weightlifting and began a career where he was often amongst the top lifters of the generation despite lifting for what was, at that time, a disadvantaged nation.

Barnett went onto medal in the 1997 World Championships, a feat not achieved again until the 2017 World Championships when Harrison Maurus ended a 20-year medal drought for the USA. Barnett held decade long American records before going onto a career in Administration which included senior roles at both USA Weightlifting and the United States Olympic Committee.

Kendrick Farris – 3x Olympian

Born and raised in Shreveport, LA in the Stoner Hill area of the city, Farris had the good fortune to be born to the same city in which Dr. Kyle Pierce resided. Spotting Farris’ tremendous talent at an early age, the partnership between this exceptional athlete and Dr Pierce would go for some 20 more years.

In that time, Farris would develop into arguably one of, if not the, greatest middleweight clean & jerk athlete in US history, representing the United States in the Olympic Games on three occasions (2008, 2012 and 2016). During his illustrious career, Farris would also set multiple American Records in the 85kg and 94kg categories, and win a Silver medal in the 2014 World University Games in Kazan, RUS while Farris was also crowned Pan American Games Champion in 2015 in Toronto, CAN.

A sure lock for the Hall of Fame once he is retired long enough, Farris now gives back to the sport by coaching the next generation and assisting a fellow member of this list periodically with the Kings of Weightlifting project.

Derrick Johnson – World Team Member

Johnson, part of a family dynasty that also includes international medalists Darren and Darrel Barnes (half-brothers of Johnson), along with Eugene Barnes. All four came from the famed Lift for Life program in St. Louis, of which Derrick Johnson eventually became the coach and built the program into an even more successful enterprise. In order to create more opportunities for inner-city kids like himself, Johnson then founded one of the only scholarship programs in the nation at Lindenwood University.

Following his experience at Lindenwood University, Johnson moved to the Los Angeles metro area and re-invented himself as a 62kg athlete, setting the American Records along the way and becoming a perennial national Champion and international athlete.

Today, Johnson has founded the Kings of Weightlifting program with similar goals to the famed Lift for Life program serving under privileged kids in Los Angeles. In doing so, Johnson has partnered with some of the leading youth sport organizations in the area.

Mark Henry – 2x Olympian

The larger than life character of Mark Henry is perhaps known better Worldwide as the WWE Superstar Mark Henry, Professional Wrestling’s own World’s Strongest Man.

However, within Weightlifting, Henry is better known for his contribution on the platform. Henry was a natural talent, with a background in powerlifting. He was first introduced to the sport by the late Dr Terry Todd before linking up with Olympic Training Center coach Dragomir Cioroslan. An outstanding powerlifting career gave away to two appearances in the Olympic Games for the USA at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996 before beginning his professional Wrestling career.

Today, Henry engages with the sport and recently assisted USA Weightlifting in a push to attempt to have Weightlifting recognized by the Texas State High School Athletic Association (UIL).

CJ Cummings – 5x World Champion (Youth/Junior) + World Youth Record Holder

Still aged only 18, Cummings is a current World Championship level athlete, who has been an ever-present figure at the World, World Junior and World Youth level for the USA his entire career.

Possessing a rare genetic gift, together with his siblings Crystal Cummings and Omar Cummings (himself a World Youth medalist), Cummings has set the World alight with his amazing feats of strength. Cummings has won 5 World Championships (3 Junior, 2 Youth) and set the World Youth Records before moving to the new 73kg. It seems that future could be very bright for Cummings, and this short biography could well be very insufficient in the future.

John Davis  – Olympic Champion

Perhaps the greatest of all, John Davis was a 6 time World and 2 time Olympic Champion and went undefeated in competition between 1938 and 1953. That is the longest undefeated streak in history, and the only man to win a World Championship in 3 different decades.

Before becoming Olympic Champion at London 1948 and defending his Olympic Gold at Helsinki 1952, Davis also served his country in the US Army during World War II. He was already a World Champion having won the Worlds in 1938 and went onto win again in 1946, 47, 49, 50 and 51 before winning silver in 1953 in Stockholm, Sweden.

During his career he set 16 World Records, he also won the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He retired in 1956 after suffering a leg injury at the 1956 Olympic Trials.

Davis spent his later years in Albuquerque, New Mexico before passing at the age of 63 in 1984.

Payton Brown

Peyton Brown – Youth Olympic Bronze Medalist

In October 2018, 17-year-old Peyton Brown made history by becoming the first American weightlifter to win a Youth Olympic Games medal. Brown earned a bronze medal in the women’s 58kg category, lifting a total of 186kg. Her 85kg snatch at the Youth Olympic Games improved her own youth American record for the 16-17 age group for the 59kg category.

Prior to competing in the Youth Olympic Games, Brown came in first place at the 2018 National Youth Championships and at the American Open Series II where she set a new youth American Record total of 188kg in the 59kg category. Brown’s trajectory will be exciting to watch in the coming years.


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