— Some people have a story with legs. Svetlana Pankratova has legs that are a story.
Actually, Pankratova’s legs are more than a story. They’re officially history, certified by Guinness World Records as the longest legs on any woman in the world.
The uniquely leggy blonde put in a TODAY show appearance Monday on the Plaza at Rockefeller Center, where she towered over Meredith Vieira, Al Roker and Ann Curry, as well as just about everybody in the live audience. She wore a furry jacket to hold off the brisk morning chill, but a miniskirt left her legs on spectacular display.
Those gams are officially 51.9 inches long — nearly 4 feet 4 inches. Pankratova’s upper body is of normal proportions, but thanks to her legs, she stands 6 foot 5.
The long and short of it
Pankratova always knew her legs were exceptionally long. But it wasn’t until one of her friends read a story about a woman with the supposed longest legs on earth that Pankratova began to suspect her stems might be totally off the scale.
“She said, ‘You have very long legs, as well, why don’t you try?’ ” Pankratova told the TODAY hosts. “I wasn’t too interested in the idea at first, but she convinced me.”
Guinness World Records confirmed earlier this year that her legs were, indeed, the world’s longest. Since then, the legs that carried her through 37 years of life have carried her to stardom.
For example: To promote the 2009 edition of “Guinness World Records,” Pankratova traveled to Trafalgar Square in London in September. There she was introduced to He Pingping, certified by Guinness as the world’s shortest man.
Twenty-year-old He stands just 2 feet 5 inches, which brought him barely to the altitude of Pankratova’s knees. Pictures from the encounter were a hit in the media and on the Internet.
“That was interesting; quite an experience,” Pankratova told the TODAY hosts. “I didn’t expect he was going to be that short. I knew it was going to be the shortest man in the world. But I didn’t expect him to be that short.”
In one of the pictures, Pingping stands between Pankratova’s legs. In another, he perches on her knee like a doll.
“He’s cute,” Pankratova summarized.
It’s a long story
Growing up in Russia, Pankratova was teased about the extraordinary length of her legs. By the time she stopped growing at 15 or 16, she was a foot taller than her 5-foot-5 mother and 3 inches taller than her 6-foot-2 father.
Not surprisingly, she played basketball, and her skill at that game brought her to the United States, where she played for Virginia Commonwealth University from 1992 to ’95. Pankratova’s school records for single-season and career blocked shots still stand, as does her 1994-95 record for most field goals in a single season.
On TODAY, Pankratova was bubbly, and clearly enjoying her newfound celebrity. Still, there are drawbacks to having legs as long as hers.
“It’s challenging to travel on planes. I don’t have enough legroom,” she admitted. To get room, she tries to get a seat on the aisle in the exit row.
Then there’s the problem of pants. “Jeans I can find sometimes, but dress pants? Impossible,” she said. “I always have them made.”
As for romance, Pankratova said, “Some [men] like it. But some, they don’t like standing next to a woman that tall. They feel intimidated.”
Pankratova’s trip to New York coincides with a “Guinness World Records Day 2008” promotion. On Nov. 13, thousands of people around the world will be participating in record-breaking efforts, including the Largest Dog Wedding in Illinois; the Largest Motorcycle Parade in Florida; and the Largest Food Drive by a Non-Charitable Organization in 24 Hours, which will involve 530 universities.
ESPN will televise attempts to break a number of other records, including the Fastest Egg and Spoon Mile, Most Apples Cut in the Air with a Sword, and Most Basketballs Spun Simultaneously While Blindfolded.
Other record attempts that will be attempted include Most Grains of Rice Eaten With Chopsticks in a Minute, Most Ice Cream Scoops Assembled in a Minute, Largest Rubber Band Ball and Longest Dreadlocks.