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Ukrainian-born Igor Vovkovinskiy, tallest man in the US, dies at 38

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By Euronews with AP
Igor Vovkovinskiy in 2011
Igor Vovkovinskiy in 2011   -   Copyright  Nati Harnik/AP
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The tallest man in the US, Igor Vovkovinskiy, who was born in Ukraine, has died at the age of 38.

His family said he died of heart disease on Friday at a clinic in Minnesota.

His mother, Svetlana Vovkovinska, a nurse at the clinic, initially posted about his death on Facebook.

He moved to the US in 1989 as a child seeking treatment at the Mayo Clinic in the city of Rochester.

A tumor, pressing against his pituitary gland, caused it to secrete abnormal levels of growth hormone. At that time, aged six, he was already six feet tall.

He went on to grow to become the tallest man in the US at 2.34 metres, or 7 foot 8 inches.

The current tallest living man is Sultan Kösen from Turkey, who stands 2.5 metres or 8 foot 2 inches. His height is also attributed to the pituitary gland secreting too much growth hormone.

Igor Vovkovinskiy appeared on television shows, and was called out by former US president Barack Obama during a campaign rally in 2009, when he noticed him wearing a t-shirt that read “World’s Biggest Obama Supporter”.

Ben Garvin/AP
Barack Obama reaches to shake the hand of the “World’s Biggest Obama Supporter” in 2009 at a campaign rallyBen Garvin/AP

In 2013, he carried the Ukrainian contestant onto the stage to perform in the Eurovision Song Contest.

He was born on September 8, 1982, in Bar, Ukraine,

His older brother, Oleh Ladan of Brooklyn Park, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that Vovkovinskiy was a celebrity when he arrived from Ukraine because of his size and the flickering Cold War of the late 1980s.

But Ladan said Vovkovinskiy “would have rather lived a normal life than be known.”