When you're America's tallest man, you get used to sticking out, but that doesn't mean you want to be compared to a fish.
That's what happened recently to Igor Vovkovinskiy, 29, who at 7-feet, 8.33-inches is recognized by Guinness World Records as the tallest man in the U.S.
Vovkovinskiy, who lives in Rochester, Minn., was watching the news on local CBS affiliate WCCO when they broadcast a story about a giant lake sturgeon that had been caught during by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources during its annual fishing survey.
The supersized sturgeon was 87.5 inches long and weighed more than 240 pounds, which is shocking enough, but Vovkovinskiy was even more surprised by what reporter Bill Hudson said next: "The fish is just slightly smaller than Igor Vovkovinskiy, Minnesota’s largest man."
That made Vovkovinkskiy, frankly, mad as halibut.
"It's demeaning being compared to a fish, especially because they used a clip from an earlier story by the station about me that was a meaningful human interest story," Vovkovinskiy told The Huffington Post.
Being compared to a fish is bad enough, but Vovkovinskiy was also angered that the reporter referred to him as "Minnesota's largest man."
"I am America's tallest man," he said proudly. "There are people in Minnesota who are bigger -- and weigh more -- than me."
Hudson said he meant no offense to Vovkovinskiy when he used his image in a story about a sturgeon, and was simply providing viewers with a visual image so they'd understand the size of the fish.
"We had just done a profile story of Igor the week prior to the record Wisconsin sturgeon being captured," Hudson told The Huffington Post by email. "Safe to say his image was fresh in the minds of viewers.
"My first thought was to use a Minnesota Timberwolves basketball player but we don't have any on the roster as tall as Igor!
Using him was purely an attempt to put the size of the fish into some perspective - something people could easily envision."
In the meantime, Vovkovinskiy remains frustrated by the report, but torn since the first story done on him, about Vovkovinskiy's campaign to raise money for a pair of shoes that would fit his size 26, 8E-feet, went a long way toward helping him raise the $16,000 needed for the specially-built shoes that he requires because his feet have been so deformed from previous surgeries.
"I felt used by the second story, but don't want to burn a bridge with the station," he lamented. "I wish that [Hudson] had thought about it or called me to ask if it was ok to compare the fish to me."
Vovkovinskiy's height, which was caused by a pituitary gland problem that has since been arrested, causes a lot of stress on his body as well as pain that affects his emotions about other things.
"I may be too sensitive, but when they said I was big, it implied that I was fat -- which I'm not," he said.
Things may improve soon.
The campaign raised more than $40,000 and Vovkovinskiy has had his feet measured. Although he has signed a legal agreement preventing him from saying anything more, he says he should be getting new shoes in the near future.
UPDATED: This story has been updated to include a quote from Bill Hudson, the man who compared Vovkovinskiy to a sturgeon.
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