During this year's ESPN Super Bowl post-game show, Nike aired an ad that, thankfully, was entertaining enough to make us forget about the Black Eyed Peas' questionable halftime performance. About 45 seconds into Nike's Throwdown commercial the camera cut to a young woman taking jump-roping to that next level. With a little digging, we tracked her down.
Meet Jamie Len Cumbo, aka "The Jump Rope Queen." Turns out, the 30-year-old Cumming, Ga., native has a story that makes you really consider the untapped excellence that lies within us all.
In June 2004, Cumbo was diagnosed with stage two malignant melanoma, one of the deadliest cancers. The cancerous mole was removed. Thankfully, the cancer had not spread. But the scare sparked the former high school softball player to get healthy and lose 30 pounds.
By the summer of 2008, her weight loss tapered off. She had hit a plateau and started looking for something new to add to her workout mix. Cumbo picked a jump rope. The choice, though somewhat random, turned out to be crucial one. It uncovered an innate talent: She was wicked with the rope.
To her own surprise, Cumbo discovered that she could whip the jump rope at near-warp speed. "I would watch boxers like Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Buddy Lee on YouTube for inspiration, taking bits and pieces of their routine," she said. "Then I'd go into the aerobics room of my gym, put my iPod on and just jump."
A year later, Cumbo's friend videotaped one of her a jump sessions, calling it "The Jump Rope Queen," and posted it on YouTube.
On Jan. 5, 2011, Cumbo sat in the hospital, awaiting a full body CT scan. (She had recently been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease call Sjogren's syndrome -- unrelated to melanoma -- and doctors needed to assess any damage.) As she waited, she scrolled through the e-mail messages on her phone. One popped up from the friend who had posted the YouTube video; a Hollywood casting agent was searching for her.
Cumbo still sounds giddy telling the remarkable story. "She asked if I could have my bag packed and be on a plane the next day to film a Nike commercial in Los Angeles!" Two days later, Cumbo was in an LA boxing ring, ripping out a killer routine using Mark Wahlberg's rope from "The Fighter." The energy and adrenaline I had -- I was in the zone!" she said. "Everyone was cheering. I swear I went twice as fast as normal."