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Chestatee High grad, Olympian Arthur passing down weightlifting skills to next generation
Chestatee High graduate Jenny Arthur poses for a 2016 pictures in Los Angeles before lifting in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. - photo by Jae C. Hong

Almost one year ago, Jenny Arthur inspired Hall County residents as a member of the U.S. Olympic weightlifting team in Rio de Janeiro.

In the time since then, though, her influence has reached a much larger audience.

Arthur has followed her sixth-place finish at the 2016 Summer Games with a series of weightlifting seminars across the country alongside her boyfriend and coach Norik Vardanian, who was an Olympian for Armenia in 2012.

Though she still has her sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, the Hall County native is using the interim to better her life and the lives of others.

“I’m becoming a better athlete and a better person through sports,” Arthur said. “During these few years will come opportunities to inspire people. I’ll have time to show people the journey, what it takes to get there and how to persevere. I believe that this is setting me up for life.”

Within two days of leaving Rio last August, Arthur and Vardanian had already set out on a lengthy seminar tour. Based near the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the couple has held about 20 seminars in the last 11 months.

They’re currently on a tour scheduled to last until December, and Arthur even began giving online coaching sessions over the last few months.

“Weightlifting has definitely grown recently, and the interest in it has increased,” she said. “We got a good response from our first tour, so we’re doing another big one right now … We’ve had a passion for weightlifting, and I really love helping people with it.”

Of course, Arthur is still focused on qualifying for the Olympics once again.

While she usually spends her weekends teaching at seminars, the 2012 Chestatee High graduate’s weekdays are blocked off for training. Arthur lifts for about two hours per day and sprinkles in an hour and a half of general strength and conditioning work three times a week.

It’s all to ensure she returns to the Olympic stage, where she admittedly experienced a bout of nerves as a 22-year-old making her first appearance at that level.

“It was nerve-wracking, especially taking my first step on the stage,” Arthur recalled. “We had six attempts overall and I missed the first attempt due to my nerves. I was thinking, ‘This is really it, I made it to the Olympics.’ I had to kind of get it together and focus in.”

Yet Arthur still finished sixth in the 75-kilogram competition despite her youth and inexperience, even setting a U.S. Olympic record in the snatch with a lift of about 235 pounds.

Gainesville noticed, to say the least.

“What I remember most is the support of all the community and the neighboring cities and counties,” said Kelly Arthur Sr., Jenny’s father. “Just about wherever I would go, it was always congratulations to our family and Jenny’s accomplishments.

“We’re all back to normal life, and yet people are still coming up to us, even today, asking how she’s doing, asking about plans for Tokyo. Everybody’s looking forward to see what happens in 2020.”

Qualifying for the Tokyo Games won’t begin until around 2019, but Arthur is aiming to compete for her country before then at the International Weightlifting Federation World Championships beginning Nov. 28 in Anaheim, California.

She’ll be among the 15 women vying for a top-eight spot that guarantees entry into Worlds at the U.S. Team qualifying competition in early September in Michigan.

Arthur is seeking to improve the technique of her already record-breaking snatch in hopes of earning a medal in 2020.

Kelly, who still resides in Hall County, believes his daughter can finish on the podium at the next Olympic Games after she finished within striking distance of fifth place in Rio.

“Now it’s hard to believe I’m an Olympian and that I have that under my belt,” the 23-year-old Arthur said. “But I’ve already been there, so now it’s about believing I can bring home a medal.”

Many months separate her from that opportunity, so in the meantime she’ll continue to impart her world-class weightlifting knowledge to beginners and veterans alike.

As much as she works to motivate them, they keep her striving for greater things, as well.

“After I competed in Rio, I received tons of messages and emails from young females and children and older adults. It was pretty cool to get that,” Arthur said. “At the end of the day, that’s what drives me: Inspiring other people, even if it just helps get someone off the couch.”

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