TIANJIN, China (Reuters Life!) - At 2.46 meters (8 ft 1 in) tall, China's Zhao Liang may well be the world's tallest person. All he needs is to be officially measured.
The 27-year-old was recently measured by doctors who were treating him for a foot injury, and was found to be some 10 cm higher than Bao Xishun, the 57-year-old Chinese man currently holding the Guinness World Record for tallest man.
Zhao's grandfather was 2 meters (6 ft 7 in) tall, but his parents and two siblings are of average height.
"I have been taller than other kids ever since I was born. When I reached the age of 16, I grew very fast," he told Reuters while recovering from surgery this week at a hospital in Tianjin, in northern China.
"And until I became 23 years old, I had been growing 10 cm (4 inches) every year," said Zhao, who weighs 155 kg (342 lbs).
Zhao used to be a basketball player in his home province of Henan in central China, but his sporting career was cut short by ligament damage to his left foot 8 years ago.
Because he was poor, Zhao did not get the damage fixed properly until he was offered free admission into a private hospital in Tianjin. Indeed, he cannot currently even stand up while he recovers from the surgery.
With basketball no longer an option, Zhao was unemployed until 2006, when he was hired by a street art troupe in northeast China and learned to perform tricks and play musical instruments.
But wherever Zhao went he would cause traffic jams and obstruct pavements as stunned crowds gathered to gawp.
While he is comfortable with his height and suffers no health complications because of it, Zhao says it is an inconvenience as everything has to be specially made for him.
"It is very difficult to find a car that fits me. When other people need one bed at a hotel, I always need to put two beds together," he said.
"My shoes are specially made, because I cannot find shoes that are of my size. It is not that hard to get tailored clothes, but it is very difficult to get shoes."
His mother, however, has other concerns.
"I am a bit concerned. He is taller than all the other people, so I am worried that he may not be able to find a wife," said Wang Keyun.
Zhao is waiting until his plaster is off before seeking official recognition for his height. In the meantime, he plays the Chinese flute at his hospital ward to entertain himself and his mother.
Editing by Miral Fahmy