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Chestatee graduate Jenny Arthur named to US Olympic weightlifting team for 2016 Summer Games
Arthur to compete in Rio de Janeiro
Chestatee High graduate Jenny Arthur competes at the IWF World Championships in Houston, Texas, in November 2015. Arthur will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. - photo by For The Times

For kids there are "be a firefighter" dreams and then there are "be an Olympic athlete" dreams.

For Jenny Arthur, a Chestatee High graduate, she dreamed of being a track and field Olympian. As of Jan. 12, she will be an Olympian, but as a member of the weightlifting team.

Now, she’s headed for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, host of the 2016 Summer Games.

“It’s a goal and a dream I’ve had since I was little,” Arthur said. “I began running track along with my other sisters. When I was running track, I had the dream of going to the Olympics in track and field. When I was introduced to weightlifting, I thought this is interesting.”

As a Chestatee High student, Arthur made her home on the softball field and on the track.

“Jenny initially started lifting to be better at softball and track,” said Stan Luttrell, who is the former football coach and weightlifting teacher at Chestatee. “She comes from a very athletic family. She was naturally strong in the beginning.”

“She was a multi-sport athlete,” said C.J. Stockel, who lives in Flowery Branch and is chairman of the board with USA Weightlifting. “That’s why she’s such a dadgum good weightlifter.”

Stockel, along with Luttrell, coached Arthur in her early days of weightlifting.

“When she was a junior, Stan and I realized she had the potential,” Stockel said.

Arthur used that potential and has earned herself the first spot on Team USA.

Kelly Arthur, Jenny’s father, said the rest of the family, which includes seven other children, are “incredibly proud of her.”

Jenny proved to score the most points at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships for the U.S. team, which garnered her the spot on the team.

She said she received an email from the event and program director at the Olympic Training Center, which is based in Colorado Springs, Colo., Tuesday morning asking her to be in the gym for a meeting at 4 p.m.

When she arrived, there was no one there. Then, in her estimation, about 20 people filed in and Carissa Gump, director of corporate services, stood in front of the crowd to announce Jenny would be going to Rio and bypassing the trials phase.

“I had an idea, but at the time, when it was announced, it was official and it was real,” Jenny said Wednesday. “I’m still trying to take it all in a day later. It’s just crazy. I still have so many emotions.”

Though she said she had an idea, Jenny said just before the news was officially revealed by Gump, “You think, ‘Is this really happening right now?’ It’s something you work hard for and dedicate your life to and you just think, ‘Is my dream really coming true right now?’”

Kelly said one of his daughters, Jody, said by Wednesday Jenny was “the talk of the town and it’s only been 24 hours.”
“It’s been total support and congrats and all that,” Kelly said. “It’s been so overwhelming.”

At the 2015 IWF World Championships, Jenny placed eighth. It was all she needed to get that spot on the Olympic team and be able to wear “USA” across her chest as she competes on the biggest of world stages.

“It’s indescribable,” she said.

In her short career of weightlifting, Jenny has set and holds the Senior and Junior American records in the snatch, clean and jerk, and total in the 75-kilogram division. She set the clean and jerk (138 kilogram) and total (244 kilogram) records at Worlds in November.

Jenny also holds the Senior and Junior American record in the clean and jerk in the 69-kilogram division.

Jenny is a two-time national champion, American Open champion, Junior World silver medalist and Pan American Championship silver medalist.

“Jenny said, ‘We have to hurry up. I have to go volunteer at the children’s hospital,’” Stockel said when they called the meeting for the announcement. “That’s Jenny Arthur. You say, ‘This couldn’t happen to a better person.’ This really couldn’t.

“To have her competing at the Olympics, we’re lucky,” Stockel continued. “I don’t mean Stan and I. The USA is lucky because of the quality of person she is. You will never see her when she’s not smiling. I just like seeing her smile because it picks you up. She’s easy to gravitate to. That’s just the way she is.”

As Jenny gets back into the swing of training after a break for the holidays, she will now turn her sights on the 2016 USA Weightlifting National Championships, which will take place May 5-8 in Salt Lake City.

“I’m still working my way back into the normal routine for the training,” she said. “Nationals will be a tune up for the Olympics.”

As she looks ahead to the Summer Games and Rio, Jenny said she’s “looking forward to representing God and competing for the USA and representing Gainesville to the best of my ability. I want to go out and have fun and realize this dream that I’ve worked for all my life.”

The weightlifting portion of the Olympics are scheduled to begin Aug. 6 and conclude Aug. 16.

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