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KIYG 2023: Weightlifter Jyoshna rises from poverty in remote Odisha village to shatter national record

Chennai, Jan 27: A few months ago, Commonwealth Games gold medallist weightlifter K Ravi Kumar was supposed to reach Jyoshna Sabar’s village around 11am. But it was evening then and he had still not been able to find his way through this mountainous, forested region of Odisha near the Andhra border. The road wasn’t exactly motorable either.

Fortunately, he spotted a man who turned out to be Jyoshna’s grandfather, and the old man guided them to Jyoshna’s home in Gajapati district’s Pekata, a village so remote that the nearest bus stop is a few hours by foot.

The 15-year old daughter of a small-time farmer father and homemaker mother has risen from this impoverished background to become one of India’s leading junior weightlifters. After winning bronze at the World Youth Championships in Albania last year, she shattered the national snatch record on her way to the gold medal in the 40kg category at the 6th Khelo India Youth Games in Chennai.

Jyoshna lifted a total of 130 kgs, including 60 kg in Snatch (a new national record) and 70 kg in Clean and Jerk.

The target was to go after all three records – Snatch, Clean and Jerk and total. “Unfortunately, she failed an attempt in jerk, otherwise we would have broken jerk and total too. She is upset and repeatedly saying that she has not been able to achieve her target,” said coach Ravi.

The shy Jyoshna is still opening up to a world that she had no idea about until a couple of years ago. “She is from a very humble and remote background. Only in the last few months has she begun to know more about the world, when she travelled for the World Championships. She does not speak much. We treat her like a delicate flower, because if you say anything to her, she gets scared,” said coach Ravi.

Jyoshna’s parents have become used to her winning medals, scholarships and incentives, but aren’t familiar at all with her sport. “Even after their daughter won a medal at the World Championships, they don’t have much idea about weightlifting. But they are proud of their daughter,” said coach Ravi.

Jyoshna’s talent was spotted by coach Ramesh Chandra Pandhi at the NGO-run Gram Vikas School, Kankia, a residential facility for underprivileged children about 90km from Pekata. She was then selected for the Tenvic High Performance Centre, Bhubaneswar, where she studies in tenth grade at the Kalinga Institute.

Back in Pekata and Kankia, she has become a big inspiration for numerous children.


The 6th Khelo India Youth Games 2023 from January 19-31 are being held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. This is the first time that Khelo India Youth Games are being held in South India. The Games are being played across four cities of Tamil Nadu, namely Chennai, Madurai, Trichy and Coimbatore. The mascot for the Games is Veera Mangai. Rani Velu Nachiyar, fondly called Veera Mangai, was an Indian queen who waged a war against British colonial rule. The mascot symbolizes the valour and spirit of Indian women, embodying the strength of women power. The logo for the games incorporates the figure of poet Thiruvalluvar. Over 5600 athletes will be participating in this edition of Khelo India Youth Games, spread across 13 days in 15 venues with 26 sporting disciplines, over 275 competitive events and 1 demo sport. The 26 sporting disciplines are a diverse mix of conventional sports such as football, volleyball, badminton etc. and traditional sports such as kalaripayattu, gatka, thang ta, kabaddi and yogasana. Silambam, a traditional sport of Tamil Nadu, is being introduced as a demo sport for the first time in the history of Khelo India Youth Games.

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