rumeysa and robert wadlow split image

The world’s tallest woman Rumeysa Gelgi says she could have grown taller than the tallest man ever Robert Wadlow if it hadn’t been for medical intervention.

And she says it was that treatment that saved her life.

Rumeysa, from Türkiye, now stands at 215.16 cm (7 ft 0.7 in), while American Robert, whose birthday is today (22 February), grew to an unmatched 272 cm (8 ft 11.1 in).

But there have been times in Rumeysa’s life that she was taller than Robert was at the same age.

Rumeysa with a statue of Robert

Rumeysa, who is the star of Guinness World Records’ first feature-length documentary Rumeysa: Walking Tall, was born with Weaver syndrome, a condition caused by a genetic mutation.

Robert, who died in 1940 at the age of 22, grew due to hypertrophy of his pituitary gland, which resulted in him having an abnormally high level of human growth hormone.

And while doctors intervened during Rumeysa’s childhood to slow her growth, the same treatment was not available in Robert’s day.

Rumeysa, 27, told us: “A while ago, I checked Robert's growth chart just out of curiosity and surprisingly found out that our growth rates are almost identical. 

“At some ages, my height was actually taller than his. However, I was treated with medications to stop my overgrowth from age six to age nine, so I obviously have never grown up as tall as Robert's final height and that saved my life.”

At age 10, Robert measured 196 cm (6 ft 5 in), the same height as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, but Rumeysa was even taller at 204 cm (6 ft 8 in).

Rumeysa was six when she began treatment to stop her overgrowth. It went on for three years, and while she did continue to grow for a while longer, it was at a much slower rate.

At age 15, she was 210 cm (6 ft 10 in), but by that age Robert was already 234 cm (7 ft 8 in) – taller than Rumeysa is now.

She had reached her current height by age 24, when she was announced as the tallest woman living, and hasn’t grown since.

But Robert continued to grow until his untimely death. 

He tragically died from a septic blister on his right ankle, that was caused by an iron brace he wore to support his leg.

Who knows how tall he might have grown if he hadn’t died so young?

Rumeysa said: “Sadly, Robert passed away at a very young age of 22 and he even was continuing to grow at that time. Because in the era he lived in, stopping overgrowth with medical treatments or surgeries was not available which was leading super tall people to have such a short life span.

rumeysa takes a selfie with robert wadlow statue

“This made Robert the ultimate record breaker as no one will be able to obtain his title of the tallest person/man to ever live since now medical professionals don't allow anyone to grow up to that height to avoid life threatening complications.

“I can't even describe how grateful I am to today's modern medicine techniques as well as the doctors who performed an experimental treatment for saving my life. Otherwise, my fate wouldn't be any different than Robert's.”

It’s true that it’s incredibly unlikely anyone will ever grow taller than Robert.

The current tallest person living is Sultan Kösen, who stands at 246.5 cm (8 ft 1 in) – 10.1 in shorter than Robert.

Sultan with an adjudicator

Robert’s height made him famous in his lifetime and beyond.

Born in Alton, Illinois, he became known as the “Alton Giant” and achieved celebrity status after touring the US with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

Circus bosses wanted Robert to dress in a top hat and tails, but he refused and would only appear in his everyday clothes.

Rumeysa, who uses a wheelchair most of the time, said: “What Robert has achieved is epic and his legacy will be celebrated forever. However, I'm so sorry that he couldn't enjoy life longer and had serious health struggles that we even don't know.

“My final height is nowhere close to his and I have a lot of challenges. I can't even imagine what he has gone through.

“Last year at the Guinness World Records Museum in Los Angeles, I finally had the privilege to meet Robert - his life size statue. 

“I read a lot about his life story. I respect him so much as a record holder and as a person. The way he stood out and never let others ‘exhibit’ him always impresses me, especially considering that he lived in an era where being different was more difficult than it is today.

“I wish Robert a happy heavenly birthday!”

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