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TODAY
Sultan Kosen, dwarfing Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, has the world's largest hands and wears a size 22 shoe.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/21/2009 9:17:57 AM ET 2009-09-21T13:17:57

Leaving his tiny Turkish village for the first time, 27-year-old Sultan Kosen is finally seeing the bright lights of the big city. But unlike other tourists, he’s seeing those lights at eye level.

Kosen, who towers over the rest of the world at an astounding 8 feet 1 inch, appeared live on TODAY Monday, smiling happily for the cameras while onlookers in New York City’s Rockefeller Plaza marveled at the gentle giant. Guinness Book of World Records editor Craig Glenday was on hand to present a plaque to Kosen honoring him as the “World’s Tallest Man” — and the tallest Guinness has been able to document in some 20 years.

“I’m really proud and happy I’ve managed to get into the Guinness Books of World Records because it’s been one of my dreams,” Kosen told TODAY’s Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira through translator Kelly Garrett.

It’s a whole season of firsts for Kosen, who is getting his first look at the world at large. New York was just the first stop since leaving his town of 320 people in eastern Turkey as part of a Guinness promotional tour. Throughout the fall, Kosen will be visiting Los Angeles, Austria, Portugal, Spain and Italy before heading back to his home country, where he has become a bit of a national hero.

It’s heady stuff for a fellow who stands head and shoulders above his fellow man. The soft-spoken Kosen has endured hardships throughout his life, from a pituitary gland condition that caused him to grow uncontrollably to the inevitable teasing his jaw-dropping size generated among his small-town peers.

‘Going to have it easier’
Kosen was diagnosed with pituitary gigantism at age 10 after doctors discovered a tumor behind his eyes; the tumor had put excess pressure on his pituitary gland and caused his extreme growth. He underwent a series of surgeries that finally did the trick in stopping his growth last year.

His  condition quite expectedly has caused other medical problems. While his height of course would make any basketball scout salivate, Kosen suffers stress on his knees that necessitates the use of walking canes for most activities. Translator Garrett says Kosen’s family is of limited means, making it difficult to afford physiotherapy, and the family’s remote location in Turkey means proper therapy treatment is a grueling 17 hours away by car at any rate.

TODAY
His hands, the largest in the world, dwarf a Coke can.
But with the hoopla surrounding his being entered into Guinness World Records fame, Kosen has finally found his height is something to celebrate, not shy away from. The incessant looks and teasing back home often made Kosen largely hide away from the outside world, but he’s now reveling in the attention.

“Up until now, I’ve really had a difficult life,” Kosen told Lauer and Vieira through Garrett. “But I’m happy. From now, I’m really going to have it a lot easier.”

Kosen was also happy to show Lauer and Vieira the physical traits that make him a cut above the rest of humankind. His hands are also the largest in the world, measuring 10.8 inches. Lauer handed Kosen a can of Coca-Cola, which looked like a pantry item from a child’s dollhouse in his massive clutch. And when Vieira put her foot alongside Kosen’s size 22 athletic shoe, her own foot looked like a baby’s.

While Guinness is using Kosen to promote the 2010 edition of the records book, it’s also trying to improve Kosen’s lot in life. His difficulty in standing up for sustained periods makes it hard for Kosen to work a regular job, though he does help out by driving a tractor on the family farm. Guinness is in talks with documentary filmmakers to profile Kosen’s life and struggles with extreme size, and hopefully net him some pay.

And Guinness has also taken care to make sure Kosen is comfortable in his promotional tour around the world.

TODAY
Kosen, towering over Al Roker, suffers stress on his knees that necessitates the use of walking canes for most activities
“During this tour, Guinness has been able to identify the best kind of travel for me, and also made sure the beds have been big enough for me,” Kosen said through Garrett. That includes finding jets with extra-long legroom in business class and booking hotels with the biggest suites.

Garrett added that Kosen is “really great about navigating and adapting to whatever come his way.” When she first saw Kosen manage to squeeze into one of the notoriously tiny bathrooms on an airline, Garrett said she knew “he can handle most anything.”

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Video: World’s tallest man: ‘Proud and happy’

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