EXCLUSIVE: 7-year-old Yati Ravi Jethva, Asia’s youngest powerlifter, sets sights on Olympics

A billion Indians were filled with pride as Mirabai Chanu scripted history by clinching the silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the Women’s 49 kg category. Before Chanu, there was Karnam Malleshwari, who became the first Indian woman to win a medal in the Olympics in 2000 by finishing third in the women’s 69 kg category. Now, another Indian is preparing himself to match the feats of these sporting icons, but what makes his case interesting is the age — he’s just seven years old!

Yati Ravi Jethva with his Asia Book of Records certificate. Photo courtesy: Family
Yati Ravi Jethva with his Asia Book of Records certificate. Photo courtesy: Ravi Jethva

Hailing from Surat, Gujarat, Yati Ravi Jethva is no ordinary seven-year-old. He’s a super kid with multiple records to his name already. Yati holds the record for being the youngest powerlifter in Asia. Certified by Asia Book of Records, the feat managed by the Surat native reads: “Yati Ravi Jethva, (born on March 24, 2014) of Gujarat, India, set a record for lifting the maximum amount of deadlift weight. He lifted 49.50 kg weight, at the age of 5 years, 8 months and 16 days, as confirmed on July 17, 2023.” This wasn’t a one-trick show, as Yati has been honing his skills for years now.

Though Yati primarily trains as a powerlifter, he has been practising weightlifting, which is a recognised Olympic sport, in hopes that it would facilitate him to represent India one day.

Connected to India’s Sudipto Maity reached out to the Shree Jalaram International School student, who, alongside his father, Ravi Jethva, sat down for an exclusive chat.

As per Ravi, Yati started his training at just three. The father says that the boy is likely to have picked up an interest after seeing the former work out at a gym. Ravi, who himself trained and participated in powerlifting competitions, used to take his son for events and to the gym. “He was just two when one day he took a barbell and started lifting it,” the father says. “Now, you can imagine a barbell weighs around 12 kilograms and for a two-year-old to lift it is no joke.”

The proud father says that it didn’t dawn upon him that his son could lift weights until another few months passed. “He would lift weights, but I wouldn’t pay heed. It’s only after months of seeing him being persistent with it, I thought this is unusual. He might have the potential,” he says.

Once identified, Ravi doubled as Yati’s coach and started preparing the boy for his journey towards powerlifting and weightlifting. The start, however, wasn’t easy. “Yes, people frowned upon me, upon us. Some questioned his training at such a young age, but I wasn’t deterred,” he says.

Asked if he was ever in doubt that the weight training will impact Yati’s vertical growth, Ravi says, “Weight training doesn’t deter anyone’s growth. Height is genetic in nature. If you have it in your genes, you’ll be tall.” To pad his claims, he states that Yati was 2 and a half feet tall when he started lifting. Today, the boy measures around four feet.

Yati posing with officials at a competition. Photo courtesy: Family
Yati posing with officials at a competition. Photo courtesy: Ravi Jethva

The results have also had a positive impact on dispelling the cynicism around Yati’s training. “Now I get a lot of positive feedback from people who earlier would express doubt. They can see the results for themselves and are now genuinely curious about Yati’s transformation,” he says.

While he mostly sat quietly, listening to the conversation, Yati, on being asked, shared his daily routine during the interaction. He follows a strict vegetarian diet, as is the case in most Gujarat household. But the Grade 3 student stays away from the regional delicacies which are mostly fried based.

The morning usually starts with a glass of milk, accompanied by banana and dry fruits. School tiffin comprises soya chunks, fruits, paneer etc. Lunch is mostly made of roti (Indian flatbread), veggies and lentils, with a portion of rice. Yati consumes another glass of milk and a banana or opts for a fruit shake before hitting the gym. The post gym meal comprises peanut shake with milk. Dinner is mostly light food like khichdi, dal, oats or muesli, and he consumes a glass of warm milk with turmeric before going to sleep.

The seven-year-old can deadlift an impressive 77.5 kgs while he himself weighs 26 kilograms. Photo courtesy: Family
The seven-year-old can deadlift an impressive 77.5 kgs while he himself weighs 26 kilograms. Photo courtesy: Ravi Jethva

The diet has so far borne fruit. The boy can deadlift a whooping 77.5 kgs, squat 55 kgs and bench press 30 kgs, as per Ravi. “He started with powerlifting, but slowly, I’m preparing him for weightlifting as well. If everything goes well, I’m hoping to see him represent our country in the Olympics,” the father says.

Yati with his medals and certificates. Photo courtesy: Family
Yati with his medals and certificates. Photo courtesy: Ravi Jethva

Not just his son’s recording-breaking feats, Ravi Jethva is equally happy to raise a son who adheres to a strict discipline at such a young age. “Children do what they see. If they see their fathers smoking, they would want to try it. Similarly, my son has grown up seeing me in the gym, training hard, and he has taken a liking to it. What makes me happy is, when other kids are watching various contents for entertainment, Yati mostly watches videos of powerlifters and bodybuilders.”

It’s not every day that you get to see a seven-year-old put grown men to shame with his power, but Yati Ravi Jethva, with over 26 medals, trophies and certificates, and names in record books, is no ordinary kid. As India plans to bid for the 2036 Olympics, both Ravi and Yati would want their dreams to come true at the biggest stage.

You can interact with Yati on Instagram, and with his father, Ravi, on the social media platform.