Leonid Stadnyk, an 8-foot-4 Ukrainian man, refused to be officially measured by the Guinness Book of World Records because he didn’t want the attention. It’s very likely, however, that he was the tallest man in the world. Stadnyk died Sunday at age 44 because of health problems.
Though some people who have reached Guinness World Records are proud of it, Stadnyk shied away from publicity. He felt ashamed and burdened by his height: “To me, my height is a curse, a punishment from God, not something to celebrate,” he said in a previous interview. “What sin I have committed, I do not know. All my life I have dreamed of being just like everyone else.”
Stadnyk reportedly disliked being so tall because it prevented him from accomplishing normal, ordinary goals like his lifelong dream of being a veterinarian, or even getting married. According to The Mirror, Stadnyk didn’t want to get married because “I don’t want to inflict my problems on a wife. I think it would not be fair on her.”
The tallest man ever recorded was Robert Wadlow, who was born in Alton, Ill., in 1918 and measured in at 8-foot-11 by the time he was 21 years old. Wadlow suffered from Gigantism — the same disorder that Stadnyk had — which makes the lower portions of his body extremely large in comparison to his head and torso. The disorder is caused by an abnormal amount of a growth hormone during childhood. People with the disorder often have to have special clothes designed specifically for them, extra large shoes, and even enormous bikes.
There are only about 10 cases of people being over 8 feet tall recorded by Guinness World Records. “We have contacted Stadnyk, but he seems like a very shy guy,” a Guinness World Records spokeswoman told The Mirror. “He doesn’t want us around. So we have to stick to what we have.”
Currently, the tallest living man in the world as recorded by Guinness World Records is Sultan Kösen, a 31-year-old Turkish man who has hit 8-foot-3. Kosen is more open to fame than Stadnyk, and even recently was married in Turkey. Photos of their wedding can be seen on Facebook.