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Image: Igor Vovkovinskiy with cheerleaders
Nati Harnik  /  AP
Igor Vovkovinskiy, the tallest man in the United States, poses for a photo with cheerleaders during a visit from President Obama in Cannon Falls, Minn., on Aug. 15, 2011. His T-shirt reads, "World's Biggest Obama Supporter."
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 5/3/2012 6:43:31 PM ET 2012-05-03T22:43:31

Igor Vovkivinskiy is a big man with a big heart. A very big heart. It’s literally twice as big as the average person’s.

From the perspective of most people, Vovkivinskiy is a giant. At 7-foot-8.33 inches tall, he’s the tallest man in the United States, and he’s been dealing with a colossal problem: He can’t find shoes that fit.

Vovkivinskiy isn’t even sure of his shoe size anymore; he hasn’t been able to buy shoes in a store since he was a teenager. His inability to find footwear that truly fits him resulted in 16 surgeries on his feet in the past five years, leading to foot deformities and constant pain.

So, Vovkivinskiy decided to take a giant step toward a solution: He started a fund-raising website and a Facebook page asking people to help him pay for a new pair of kicks. Scores of strangers have opened their hearts and their wallets to Vovkivinskiy, donating more than $37,000 to help him combat his Goliath-size shoe challenges.

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And, on Friday, athletic apparel giant Reebok announced that it wanted to fly Vovkivinskiy out to its headquarters in Canton, Mass., and custom-make a pair of shoes just for him.

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“Thank you so much to everyone who made this donation drive happen!!” Vovkivinskiy posted on his website. “I cannot believe my eyes at the amount and the generosity of the people. Thank you all.”

‘It hurts horribly to walk’
Vovkivinskiy moved to Rochester, Minn., from Kiev, Ukraine in 1989 at age 6. His mother was desperate to find medical care for her son, who already towered above her at 6 feet tall at the time. She made sure he was situated near the Mayo Clinic, where surgeons tried to remove a tumor in his pituitary gland that was overwhelming his body with growth hormones.

The National Geographic Channel reported that the tumor was too deeply embedded to be removed entirely, so Vovkivinskiy kept growing, and growing, and growing.

World’s tallest man finally stops growing at 8 feet 3 inches

His sheer enormity has taken a painful toll on his feet over the years, as the 29-year-old recounts on his website:

“None of my shoes for too long have been made specifically for my feet. They rub, they make wounds, I have surgery, foot gets more deformed, they rub more, I have more surgery and so on. And the circle goes on.

Story: World’s tallest man: ‘I’ve had difficult life’

“I am now recovering from my last set of three surgeries, and I still have no shoes. I have one pair of clogs; they have no shape that holds my foot, they have no grip on the bottom, so going out in the winter is suicide, it hurts horribly to walk in them, and they hurt my feet, legs, hips, and back.”

Image: Igor Vovkivinskiy
This photo of Igor Vovkivinskiy greets visitors to his fund-raising website.

Before launching his site, Vovkivinskiy contacted an array of shoe companies asking for help and guidance. An employee from just one of them — Reebok — got back to him, explaining that a new pair of custom-made shoes would cost him about $15,000 and would require him to have his feet scanned for creation of a special 3D model just for him.

That kernel of information gave Vovkivinskiy a surge of hope. At once, he launched his fund-raising site with a target goal of $16,000 to cover the cost of one pair of custom shoes and the price of business-class airfare from Minnesota to Massachusetts. (Vovkivinskiy can’t fit in coach.)

Story: Meet world’s shortest woman: She’s 24.7 inches tall

In about three weeks, strangers gave more than $37,000 to Vovkivinskiy, and on Friday, Reebok stepped forward with its announcement about making the shoes for him at no cost.

“When Igor came to us and we heard his story, we were more than happy to completely fund the creation of his footwear,” Reebok’s chief marketing officer Matt O’Toole said in a statement released to TODAY.com. “It is our goal to make fitness accessible to everyone.”

Vovkivinskiy could not immediately be reached for comment about the free shoe offer, or about what he would do with all the money he raised in light of the Reebok news. But many of his supporters seem to realize that, as a college student who faces a unique array of financial and personal challenges, he needs more than a single pair of custom-made shoes.

“I met Igor when he was graduating from high school,” a supporter named Jean Day posted on his Facebook page. “His bed needs to be specially built, his mother hand-made all his clothes, and only a few years ago found a place that specially made his socks. The floors of his house needed to be reinforced and ceilings, doors, etc., all [made] much taller than normal and those costs added up.

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“For a while, he had to lay down in the back of his mother’s van, as he didn't fit sitting up — talk about dangerous with no seat belt or safety like that. The van was altered but it still is one vehicle only. Shoes, clothes, vehicles — they all need to be replaced as time goes on. ... This is not just a one-time issue!”

Dozens of notes of encouragement sent to Vovkivinskiy have reflected a similar spirit of generosity.

“We added a little donation to the pot and we hope you raise enough for plenty of comfy shoes and some new clothes to match. Good luck and God bless!” wrote one donor.

“You're gonna have more than one pair of shoes!!” wrote another. “Good luck Igor!”

A GOOD NEWS UPDATE: Vovkivinskiy got fitted for new shoes at Reebok headquarters in Canton, Mass., on Thursday, May 3. Shoe engineers did scans, tests and measurements of Vovkivinskiy’s feet, and designers met with him so he could weigh in on how his shoes should look. Reebok did all of this for Vovkivinskiy free of charge. To see photos from his fitting, check out this PhotoBlog post

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: 2012

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  1. Guinness World Records 2012

    Look through images of the biggest, fastest, longest, weirdest and wackiest record breakers awarded in 2011 and from the 2012 edition of Guinness World Records.

    Longest wedding dress train
    Romanian model Ema Dumitrescu, 17, poses with her champion dress during a successful attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest wedding dress train, in Bucharest, Romania, on March 20, 2012. The record-breaking train measures more than 9,022 feet. Ten people worked for 100 days to finish it. (EPA, Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Most wine bottles uncorked simultaneously

    More than 300 chefs and sommeliers popped their corks in Las Vegas on Feb. 29, 2012, setting the Guinness World Record for most wine bottles uncorked at once. (Jason Schmidt via Guinness World) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. World's shortest living man, ever

    Nepal's Chandra Bahadur Dangi poses with his certificates after being declared the world's shortest living man and shortest man ever by the Guinness Book of Records at a ceremony in Katmandu, Nepal, on Feb. 26, 2012. The 72-year-old man was measured at just 21.5 tall, snatching the title from Junrey Balawing of the Philippines, who is 23.5 inches. (Niranjan Shrestha / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Oldest twins

    Guinness World Records has confirmed that Edith Ritchie and Evelyn “Evie” Middleton, born November 15, 1909, are the world’s oldest living twins. The pair, who live together in a retirement home in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, celebrated their 102nd birthday in November 2011.

    The twins, whose maiden name was Rennie, were born on a farm near Newburgh, Scotland more than a century ago when Edward VII was on the throne. Although not identical, their mother always dressed them exactly the same. After leaving school, they worked on farms before leaving to start their own families. Evelyn married William Middleton and has four children,12 grandchildren, 26 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren. Edith, married Nathaniel Ritchie and has four children, nine grandchildren, 21 great grandchildren, and three-great-great grandchildren.

    The sisters have remained close throughout their life and now live together at Bonnyton House care home in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

    Neither sister has ever traveled outside of the UK. When asked her secret to a long life, Edith says “simple living, hard work and a good husband.”

    “Edith and Evelyn are a remarkable pair – when they were born, the likes of Mark Twain and Florence Nightingale were still alive, and we had yet to conquer the South Pole,” said Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday. “They’ve clearly benefitted from good genes, and a solid life-long friendship that only twins can truly understand.” (Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Most prolific dancing game high scorer

    Iowa's Elizabeth Bolinger, AKA Kitty Mc Scratch, dances her way into history, earning her the record as the "Most Prolific Dancing Game High Scorer" with top scores in over 100 songs spanning across 'Just Dance' and 'Dance Central'. She's featured in the Guinness World Records 2012 Gamers Edition out now. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Smallest working dog

    The smallest working dog is Lucy, a female micro Yorkshire Terrier, who measured 5.7 inches tall on Nov. 28, 2011, and is owned by Sally Leone Montufar of Absecon, New Jersey. (Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Most Christmas lights on a property

    David and Janean Richards celebrate being awarded the Guinness World Record for the most lights on a residential property. Their home in Forrest Act, Australia, is illuminated by 331,038 Christmas lights. David is reluctant to say how much the decorations cost, but all the money he receives from visitors goes to the charity ‘SIDS and Kids’ which he says helped his family out during a difficult period in 2002. Despite the four year investment in the light display, David said that he won't be doing it again next year, saying he hoped to be able to donate the lights to someone else who would continue to use them to raise money for charity. (Guinness Book of World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. World's shortest woman

    Guinness World Records adjudicator Rob Molloy (R) and Indian doctor K. Sujatha (L) measure the height of Jyoti Amge, the world's shortest living woman, on her 18th birthday in the central Indian city of Nagpur on Dec. 16. Amge was certified by the Guinness World Records as the shortest woman in the world with an average measurement of 24.7 inches. (Stringer/india / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns

    The largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns was 262 who gathering at Canal Theatre, Dublin. Just imagine the massive pot of gold they were hiding at the end of the rainbow! (Maxwell Photography / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Most number of people to fit into a pair of underpants

    Participants in their underwear break a world record for the most number of people, 57, to fit into an oversized pair of underpants. They look like they're freezing standing in the Canary Wharf district of London, on Nov. 17, 2011. (Matt Dunham / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Longest kissing chain

    The longest kissing chain was achieved by 351 participants at an event organized by Jiayuan.com in Beijing, China. The smooches occurred Nov. 11, 2011. (Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Longest distance full-body burn without oxygen

    The longest distance ran full-body burn without oxygen is 393 ft 8.4 in. and was achieved by Denni Düsterhöft in Hamburg, Germany on Nov. 16. (Alexander Pihuliak / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Most arrows caught by hand in two minutes while blindfolded

    The most arrows caught by hand in two minutes – blindfolded is four. The record was achieved by Joe Alexander in Hamburg, Germany, on Nov.16. (Alexander Pihuliak / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Most bottle caps removed with the head

    The most bottle caps removed with the head in one minute is 24. It was achieved by Ahmed Tafzi in Hamburg, Germany, on Nov. 16 as part of the Guinness World Records Day. (Alexander Pihuliak / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Most popping popcorn caught with both hands

    The most popping popcorn caught with both hands in one minute is 26. It was achieved by Joe Alexander in Hamburg, Germany on Nov. 16. (Alexander Pihuliak / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Oldest yoga instructor

    The oldest yoga teacher is Bernice Mary Bates, who was born on June 30, 1920, and remains an active yoga teacher in Florida at the age of 91. Shes was presented with the award in November 2011 as part of Guinness World Records Day 2011. (Matt May / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Largest Hula Hoop workout

    The Largest Hula Hoop workout consisted of 221 students from Longleaf Elementary School in New Port Richey, Florida, USA on November 8, 2011 as part of Guinness World Records Day 2011. The participants danced for 1 minute and 44 seconds. (Matt May / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Largest Soul Train dance

    The largest Soul Train dance consisted of 211 Berkeley High School students, staff and alumni in Berkeley, California, who all shook their groove thing down a dance line. (RC Rivera / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Longest chocolate bar

    Mmmmm! Mirco Della Vecchia from Italy already holds the records for the largest chocolate sculpture and the tallest ice cream bowl. Now he's set a new record by making a 50-foot-long and almost 8-feet-wide chocolate bar. It's 15,000 pounds of deliciousness. The chocolate bar was officially measured inside the historic Salaborsa library in Bologna main Maggiore Square. (Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Largest tea party

    Three hundred and thirty-four people attended what's now officially recognized as the largest tea party, put on by the English Cream Tea Company in Essex. The record attempt raised funds for the Alzheimer’s Society and The Fragile X Society. (Paul Michael Hughes / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Largest Zumba class

    So much sweat! Guinness counted that 1,439 people attended a Zumba class in The Netherlands, making it officially the largest one in the world. (Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Multiple record holder

    Bridgette Jordan, 22, from Sandoval, Illinois, stands at 2 feet, 3 inches tall and is a multiple record holder, as she is also one of the shortest living siblings with her 20-year-old brother Brad. (Gary Parker / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. World's tallest living female dog

    “Nova," an Illinois Great Dane, reaches the record height of 2 feet, 11.51 inches tall when standing, and weighs in at 160 pounds. She is seen here with her owner, Ann Suplee. (Jeffery R. Werner / IncredibleFeatures.com) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Most steps walked down by a dog facing forwards balancing a glass of water

    The most steps walked down by a dog facing forwards while balancing a 5 oz glass of water is 10, achieved by Sweet Pea, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie owned by Alex Rothacker from the U.S., at the Sport und Schau Show, Verden, Germany, on Jan. 5, 2008. (Ranald Mackechnie / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Fastest time to enter a suitcase

    The fastest time to enter a zipped suitcase is 5.43 seconds achieved by Leslie Tipton on Sept. 14, 2009 in New York on the "LIVE! with Regis & Kelly" show. (John Wright / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Most needles inserted into the head

    The most needles on the head is 2,009 and was achieved by Wei Shengchu of China on the set of "Lo Show dei Record," in Milan, Italy, on April 11th, 2009. (Paul Michael Hughes / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. World's longest career in theater

    Veteran Israeli actress Hanna Maron speaks at an anti-racism gathering organized by a youth movement in Tel Aviv, Israel. Maron has added another title to her resume, the world's longest career in theater. Guinness World Records spokeswoman Anne-Lise Rouse said Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 that Maron's 83 years on stage qualify as the "longest career as a theatrical actress." (Moti Milrod / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Most popular video of any kind

    Bieber's "Baby" was the most popular video of any kind online, with 463,820,304 views as of Feb. 16th, 2011. (Beawiharta / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Largest pizza commercially available

    Available on the menu at Big Mama's and Papa's Pizzeria in Los Angeles, California, is an enormous four foot, six inch square pizza. Retailing at $199.99 plus tax, this mammoth meal can feed up to 100 people and can be ordered for delivery – as long as you give the pizzeria 24 hours' notice. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Most times to pass through a tennis racket

    Australia's Skye Broberg passed her body through a tennis racket seven times in three minutes on the set of "Lo Show dei Record" in Rome, Italy, on Feb. 25th, 2010. Skye honed her serpentine skills as a circus act and street theater artist: as well as contortionist. One of her trademark specialities involves cramming her entire body into a small glass box. (John Wright / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Highest paid actor in a TV drama

    Hugh Laurie of Fox’s "House" pulled in $400,000 per episode. According to Guinness, "House" was the Most-Watched TV Show (it was seen by 81.8 million people in 66 countries). (Fox) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. World’s biggest whoopee cushion

    The largest whoopee cushion measured 10 ft. in diameter. It was made by Steve Mesure from the U.K. on behalf of Street Vibe for an event at The Scoop in London on June 14th, 2008. Pictured are, Andrew Magill (left), Callum Magill (back), Katie Avis (right) & Elliot Avis (front). (Mykel Nicolaou / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Most live streams for a single event

    The royal wedding of Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton this spring was one for the history books -- and the record books, too.
    According to the latest edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, the April 29 ceremony at Westminster Abbey was watched online by 72 million viewers. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Most pots thrown in 1 hour by an individual

    Master potter Mark Byles from the U.K. came out on top in the pot-throwing contest held at the Ceramics South East Potters Market at the Friars, Aylesford, UK, on June 28th, 2009. Mark made 150 clay flowerpots in an hour, seeing off the challenge of nearest rival Mary Chapellhow, who managed 118 pots of her own in the allotted time. (Ranald Mackechnie / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Heaviest competitive male bodybuilder

    Daniele Seccarecci has achieved the title of heaviest competitive male bodybuilder. His competition weight is 297.62 lbs.. He was weighed on the set of "Lo Show dei Record" in Rome, Italy. (Paul Michael Hughes / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Fastest bog snorkelling triathlon

    England's Daniel and Natalie Bent are the world's top brother-sister bog snorkelling duo, with Daniel setting the men's triathlon record of two hours, 21 minutes and five seconds in July 2009 and Natalie setting the women's record of two hours, 45 minutes and 40 seconds in July 2010. (Richard Bradbury / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Longest ears on a dog

    A Black and Tan Coonhound named Harbor has the longest ears of any living dog, with measurements of 12.25 inches for the left ear and 13.5 inches for the right. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Largest violin

    The Vogtland masters of violin- and bow-making in Germany created a violin that is 14 feet long and 4 feet 6 inches at its widest. This fantastic fiddle – plus its 17 feet bow – is seven times larger than the real thing. It takes three people to play a tune on it – one to press the strings and two to move the bow. (Ranald Mackechnie / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Longest fingernails on a pair of female hands

    The longest fingernails on a pair of female hands belong to Chris "The Dutchess" Walton and measure in at 10 feet 2 inches for her left hand and 9 feet 7 inches for her right hand for a total of 19 feet 9 inches as measured in Las Vegas, Nev., on Feb. 21, 2011. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Most dogs skipping on the same rope

    Who knew dogs could skip rope -- much less 13 of them at the same time. The record was achieved by Uchida Geinousha's "Super Wan Wan Circus" in Japan. (Shinsuke Kamioka / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Largest collection of penguins

    Birgit Berends had amassed a collection of 11,062 different penguin-related items as of March 14th, 2011. From Germany, she started her collection at the age of 18 when she was inspired by the animated series Pingu. Her very first penguin dates back to her days in elementary school. (Ranald Mackechnie / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Fastest wedding chapel

    The fastest wedding chapel, nicknamed The Best Man, achieved a speed of 62 miles per hour in Shelbyville, Illinois. The mobile chapel includes stained-glass windows, pews, a pulpit, a pipe organ, a 1,000-watt stereo system and a three-tiered back porch with wrought-iron hand railings. (David Torrence / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. Most piercings on a male

    The most pierced man, Rolf Buchholz, has 453 studs and rings all over his body. Buchholz, from Dortmund, Germany, has – among others – 94 piercings in and around his lips, 25 in his eyebrows, eight in his nose and 278 in his genital area. (Ranald Mackechnie / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Youngest person to fly solo around the world

    Barrington Irving, a 23-year-old aerospace student at Florida Memorial University, braved snow, storms and monsoon rains to circumnavigate the globe in his single-engine plane Inspiration, becoming the youngest person, and first black pilot, to achieve the feat. When Barrington found that nobody would lend him an aircraft for his journey, he had one built instead. The Columbia 400 he flew was made entirely from donated parts and assembled for free by the Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Company. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Largest chocolate bar

    Workers and guests at the World's Finest Chocolate company in Chicago admire a 12,290 pound chocolate bar they created to set a new Guinness World Record on Sept. 13, 2011. The bar, which stands nearly 3 feet high and measures 21 feet long, beats the previous record chocolate bar by more than a ton. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  46. Longest domestic cat (and longest domestic cat tail)

    At 48.5 inches long, Stewie is the world's longest domestic cat. The 5-year-old Maine Coon is owned by Robin Hendrickson and Erik Brandsness and was measured on Aug. 28, 2010. He also has the longest domestic cat tail at 16.34 inches. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  47. Largest afro

    The largest afro measures 7.3 inches high, 7.7 inches wide and 4 feet 4 inches in circumference. It was achieved by Aevin Dougas, who lives in New Orleans. (Chris Granger / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  48. Longest tongue on a female

    Chanel Tapper, pictured from California, has a tongue that measured 3.8 inches from tip to top lip, earning her the title of longest tongue on a female. The outright longest tongue record, though, is held by Stephen Taylor from the U.K. His lengthy licker measured 3.86 inches from tip to lip. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  49. Largest collection of cows

    Denise Tubangui, from the U.S., has a collection of 2,429 cow-related items as of March 2011. Denise started collecting in 1990 when she saw a cow figurine in her mother's kitchen. Her favorite item is the life-sized calf that her neighbors gave her as a present. (Ryan Schude / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  50. Longest moustache

    The longest moustache measures 14 feet and belongs to Ram Singh Chauhan from India. (John Wright / Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
  51. Largest crocodile in captivity

    Cassius, an Australian saltwater crocodile named after Cassius Clay, has been declared the largest crocodile in captivity by the Guinness Book of Records. Cassius measures an impressive 17 feet 11.75 inches and weighs more than 2,000 pounds. (Brian Cassey / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  52. How did it all start?

    On May 4, 1951, Sir Hugh Beaver, then the managing director of the Guinness Brewery, went on a shooting party in North Slob in County Wexford, Ireland. He became involved in an argument over which was the fastest game bird in Europe, then later realized it was impossible to confirm in reference books. He then thought that a book supplying answers to such questions could be popular.

    The first 197-page edition of the "Guinness Book of Records" was bound on Aug. 27, 1955, and went on to the top of the British best-seller list by Christmas. Over 400 million copies have sold since. (Guinness World Records) Back to slideshow navigation
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    Above: Slideshow (52) Guinness World Records 2012 - 2012
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    Slideshow (48) Guinness World Records 2012 - 2011
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    Slideshow (56) Guinness World Records 2012 - 2010

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