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Road to Rio: Chestatee High graduate Jenny Arthur put years of work into realizing Olympic dream
Jenny Arthur
Jenny Arthur - photo by For The Times

Jenny Arthur came into the world a bubbly brown-eyed baby on Dec. 11, 1993, in Gainesvile — a seasonably cold day for northeast Georgia in early winter. The sixth daughter of eight children to Freda and Kelly Arthur Sr., there was no indication that this child, no bigger than any of their other kids, would achieve athletic greatness.

“I was overwhelmed with joy and fulfillment when Jenny was born,” said her mother. “I was just so thankful that I gave birth to a beautiful, bubbly and healthy baby girl.”

That baby girl grew up. In high school, she found a proclivity for sports — especially weightlifting. That joy for weightlifting snowballed when the 2012 Chestatee High graduate moved to Colorado Springs, Colo., to train with best at the Olympic Training Center.

Jenny’s exceeded all expectations. She made it to the top of her sport. Now she’s headed to Rio to represent Team USA in the Summer Olympics.

“This is a dream come true,” Jenny said succinctly.

Jenny set herself apart as a child for being quieter than the rest of her six sisters, according to her father. The only son in the family, Kelly Jr., came a year after Jenny was born with a twin sister, Katie.

“When she (Jenny) did speak, it was clear she had a maturity beyond her years as a child,” said her father.

Her modest size also didn’t provide her parents and inclination that Jenny would be a superstar athlete, certainly not the sculpted lifter she’s become after six years immersed in the sport.

Jenny’s demure nature never kept her from standing out immediately in sports, always tagging along with her big sisters and their father for workouts running at Lanier Elementary or Chestatee High. There would be intense sprints. None of the girls ever wanted to lose.

Jenny also had a knack for hitting the ball hard in softball. Kelly Sr., an accomplished athlete in his own right, had an idea how to make his daughter even stronger. Filling a boxing heavy bag down with sand, Jenny would take cuts into the bag to build up strength in her arms and shoulders.

That continuous effort to get better gave a clear indication to everyone Jenny was serious about sports. She also never complained.

“Those workouts were tough, but was something I needed to become better,” said the 22-year-old Olympian. “I still look back on those days and can learn so much, even though it was a totally different sport.”

As her interest in softball fizzled out after two years playing for the War Eagles in high school, she was introduced to the weight room by then Chestatee High football coach Stan Luttrell and track coach Matt Mays.

Luttrell, who is now strength and conditioning coach at Buford High, put in place a satellite program at Chestatee a number of years ago that taught interested athletes the Olympic lifts.

Jenny immediately caught the coaches eyes for being naturally physically gifted and strong, according to Luttrell, when she stepped in the weight room. With time, she mastered the technique to lift more and more weight, while avoiding serious injuries.

“Jenny is diligent and hardworking,” said Luttrell. “I’m so excited for her making the Olympics.

“It’s been a long journey for her to get to this point.”

“Coach Luttrell was always welcoming to the girls who wanted to lift weights, so that was huge,” Jenny said. “Coach Luttrell and Coach Mays put a lot of effort into coaching me every day and help me realize my potential in the sport.”

She also became friends with Flowery Branch’s Ellen Kercher, who was an aspiring lifter under the school’s former strength coach C.J. Stockel, and made the move after graduation with Arthur to train in Colorado.

Living so far away from home, the two young women spent four years together and became best friends, according to Jenny, at the US Olympic Training Center.

With so many hours together lifting, playing cards and sneaking out to grab fast food together, Jenny and her friend from Hall County developed quite a bond. Kercher thinks it is Jenny’s relentless drive that made the 2016 Summer Games a reality.

“Jenny would train extra after our already long and strenuous sessions, whether that was rehab exercises to strengthen her shoulders or by making sure she was well recovered the next day by taking ice baths,” said Kercher. “You won’t find many athletes willing to spend so much extra time working on their mental game as well. Weightlifting is so much more than just raw strength, it’s a mind game.”

Jenny wasn’t just known for her athletic prowess at Chestatee. She was a 3.0 student. Arthur was also the prom queen.

According to her father, Jenny also excels with young people. Jenny will go to day care facilities and can light up the room with her cheerful personality.

All such amazing accomplishments for a young woman. Making it to the 2016 Summer Games is the result of years of hard work.

“If anyone deserves this, it’s Jenny,” said her younger sister, Katie. “She’s amazing and I’ve always looked up to her.”