For many Olympians, competition ended with the close of the Summer Games. Not so for weightlifter Arn Kritsky.
"I don't know what it would be like not to lift," said Kritsky. "I've spent most of my adult life lifting. It's been such a big part of my routine, that I don't know what it would be like if I weren't."
"Actually, for the past five years, it has been my life,." said Kritsky, a 23-year-old Oakton High graduate from Vienna.
Kritsky, who finished ninth in the Olympics, recently won a gold medal in the United States Weightlifting Federation's America's Cup IV international meet in late October in Allentown, Pa.
He successfully defended his title in the 82.5 kg. (181 3/4 pounds) class.
Canada won the team competition, while the United States finished second. Kritsky, with a 125 kg. snatch and 172.5 kg. clean-and-jerk, was one of two American champions. Val Balison of Colorado Springs won the 90 kg. class.
Kritsky, after engaging in 10 two-hour training sessions per week in preparation for the Games, only recently returned to a training regimen.
"I was so burned out. I really needed a break both physically and mentally. Then, I started back to school and the environment was totally different," said Kritsky, a senior economics major at George Mason. "At the Olympics, there were a lot of people around and we got a lot of attention from the television cameras. School meant discipline. I'm used to that, but in athletics, I enjoy it. I do want to get my education over with, though."
While he was training for the Games, Kritsky reduced his class load to six credits. Now he is taking 16 hours.
"There was no way I could spend time doing 10 workouts a week like I was doing. No one is a full time student and a full time lifter. Making the team was the hardest part," he said.
At his most recent meet, Kritsky says he "wasn't in very good shape. But this was something I wanted to do for my country. They need me to lift on the team."
Still, Kritsky was surprised at winning. Keeping up with Canada's Ken Mazur was challenging. "We were tied after three different lifts," Kritsky said. "I was a little worried because I missed my first one. That was the first time I had ever gone down to the last lift to have to win. I think my natural strength just took over."
Kritsky expected it to be close.
"I beat him by only five pounds last year," said Kritsky. "There isn't any drug testing in this meet. I don't use them, but some of these guys get all loaded up and they can really blow me away. I was really surprised to have done this well . . .
"I had just come off of a five-day rest," said Krtisky. "I have a bone chip in my left ankle. The doctor doesn't know if it's an old chip or a new one, but it started hurting after I played racquetball. The pain had subsided, but I would have competed either way."
Kritsky said he got involved with weightlifting initially "to get in shape for football . . . After high school, I started to devote more time to it. I went to college fulltime, but I made that fulltime for the Olympics. I wanted to do the ultimate. I enjoy it so much.
"It was something to be in the Olympics. It's the biggest thing there is. You have to watch that you don't get too excited. You break your habits and risk making a mistake. But I would have liked to have seen the lifters from the Eastern Bloc countries. I really didn't want to compete against them. They are one step above me. All they do is eat, sleep and lift," said Kritsky.
Romania's gold medalist, Petre Becheru, successfully maneuvered 355 pounds; Kritsky, 315 pounds.
"Actually, I lifted enough for fourth place, but the head judge said I didn't have the weight under control for a long enough time," Kritsky said. "I thought I did well. I always do well under pressure. We had one day to perform. That was it."
But winning isn't Kritsky's only motivation.
"I really get a lot of self satisfaction," said Kritsky. "Some people really think it's a crude form of athletics, but I'm flexible enough to do the splits and can vertical jump 30 inches. It's just that I also lift for exercise."