Obama's biggest fan: Rochester's Igor Vovkovinskiy


When President Obama spoke at the Target Center in Minneapolis Saturday, one supporter in the crowd got one heck of a shoutout. Stuck in the middle of the crowd surrounding the president's podium, he was easy for Obama to spot and point out. Standing more than two feet taller than most people surrounding him, Igor Vovkovinskiy's face lit up when Obama called him out:

"The biggest Obama fan in the country is in the house -- I love this guy," Obama said as Vovkovinskiy pumped his fist and the crowd roared.

For people watching from home, it might not have been so obvious that Vovkovinskiy literally was the biggest fan in the house and one of the most inspiring. Standing 7 feet, 8 inches tall, Vovkovinskiy was hard to miss for anyone in the arena, sporting a "World's Biggest Obama Supporter" t-shirt.

This wasn't his first time meeting one of the Obamas. Vovkovinskiy proudly showed off his photo with First Lady Michelle Obama during a campaign stop in Rochester, where he currently lives.

"Michelle has a picture where she looks like Sasha next to this guy," Obama joked. "He's a great supporter and it's great to see you here."

Igor is one of the word's tallest men and currently lives in Rochester. During the campaign season, Igor was spending five hours a day volunteering at the local campaign office. During the debates, he hosted a watch party. The photo with Michelle Obama was taken during her visit to Rochester in October.

Obama's biggest supporter has always stood out in the crowd. Igor was featured in an ABC story two years ago profiling some of the smallest and tallest people. According to the report, doctors discovered a tumor in his pituitary gland that caused his enormous growth spurts due to a flood of growth hormones. By age 3, Igor was already close to 5 feet tall and still growing.

Igor and his family moved to the United States from Ukraine when he was 7-years-old to receive medical treatment at Rochester's Mayo Clinic. Doctors hoped to control his growth and possibly remove the tumor on his gland. The tumor removal was unsuccessful because it was embedded too deeply.

Vovkovinskiy stopped growing at age 21. At age 26, he wears a size 25, 10-wide shoe. His heart weighs one-and-a-third pounds, which is twice as heavy as the average person's. His heart pumps at least a half cup of blood each beat. It's really a heart made of gold, his friends and family said. His home was custom built with cathedral ceilings and a 9-foot-long bed.

For someone with such an extraordinary life, meeting and shaking Obama's hand seemed like a larger-than-life experience. Check out the photo here. Reaching over several rows in the crowd after his speech, Igor got his chance to have a few seconds of Obama's time.

It was "an amazing feeling," he told the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

"I thought he would notice me, but I didn't think the president would actually acknowledge me as being there," he said. "We said 'hi,' and he asked my name, and we showed him the picture my mother and I took with Michelle Obama... He recognized the picture and he started laughing... I'm as pleased as I'll ever be just to have the opportunity to see him in person and the opportunity to shake his hand."
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Igor said he supports Obama's health care plan because health insurance he is "something I can't live without."