Born in Phagwara, India, in 1988, Aditya ‘Romeo’ Dev was the world’s smallest bodybuilder, until he passed away at the age of 23, on 13 September 2012.
Romeo was born with a form of dwarfism, known as primordial dwarfism, which resulted in him having a small body. Unlike other types of dwarfism that feature a large head and small body, Romeo’s stature was in equal proportion.
At just 2’9” and weighing in at a diminutive 20 lbs, Romeo was considered the world’s smallest bodybuilder. Despite his dwarfism, he enjoyed an active life, working hard at the gym and excelling in aerobics and dance.
Romeo didn’t let anything get in the way of bodybuilding and despite being so different from everyone else around him, he never suffered from an inferiority complex. He would hit the gym daily, where he would lift custom-made 1.5 kg dumbbells and complete sets of gruelling push-ups.
Although his size meant he couldn’t compete against his fellow gym mates in terms of weight volumes and intensity of workouts, Romeo still managed to gain impressive bulk to his triceps, biceps, thighs and calves. He believed he was probably the strongest dwarf in the world, boasting unrivalled strength for his size.
Romeo’s trainer and friend, Ranjeet Pal, who also owned the gym that Romeo frequented, claimed that the pint-sized bodybuilder would train more or less the same as anyone else at the gym but with a much more determined approach to his goals.
Ranjeet instructed Romeo to begin his training by performing simple exercises to get his body prepared for gym sessions. This included aerobics, push-ups and basic gymnastics. Ranjeet realised that Romeo would never be able to use the same kind of weights like other gym-goers, so he custom-built some lightweight dumbbells and gave him tuition on the basics of weightlifting. The training given by Ranjeet ensured Romeo’s weight and size were taken into consideration at all times, to protect him from injuries but also to maximise his potential.
After several months of intense exercise, Romeo gained recognition in the 2006 Guinness Book of Records, as the world’s smallest bodybuilder.
Romeo became a local star in his native India, where many people would come to watch him dance and work out at his gym in Punjab. He also featured on TV shows. It was Romeo’s dream to travel the world, but he particularly wanted to perform on stage in London with his idol, Jazzy-B.
In 2008, Romeo was diagnosed with life-threatening aneurysms. He was also found to have Moyamoya syndrome, which is a disease that constricts arteries in the brain, causing blood clots. Both aneurysms and Moyamoya syndrome are symptoms of the MOPD II syndrome that Romeo was born with, and that was responsible for his dwarfism.
Romeo had been warned by doctors that his aneurysms could fatally burst at any time, and sadly this was the case in September 2012. Although he was small by nature, he was huge in determination.
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