From super-size veg and athletic achievers to extremely evasive criminals, here are our favourite record breakers
Michael HoganFri 21 Aug 2015 12.34 BST
The lankiest canine in recorded history was Zeus, a great dane that measured 1.12 metres (44in) tall until his death last year. The lofty mutt was owned by the Doorlag family from Michigan and his record-breaking career began when Kevin Doorlag was watching TV: “We saw [previous title-holder] Giant George on Oprah Winfrey and I was like, ‘Man, Zeus has got to be right up there.’ We tried to measure him but he’s such a baby, he was scared of the tape measure.” Zeus was indeed a gentle giant and a part-time pet therapy dog. When he stood on his hind legs, he was 2.2m (7ft 4in) tall, more than a third of the height of an average giraffe.
“The world is just a great big onion,” sang Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. It’s a lyric that rings especially true in Leicestershire, where champion gardener Tony Glover’s eye-watering 8.5kg (18lb 12oz) beast could make an entire kitchen cry. It took more than a year to grow, measures 81cm (32in) around and would be enough to make 250 onion bhajis. Glover, 50, has been cultivating veg since his teens and really, ahem, knows his onions: “I give them a nitrogen-rich food and have to make sure the humidity is just right. I’ve also got grow-lights fitted to the greenhouse to simulate the sun when the days get shorter.” That’s shallot of effort.
In 2009, a group of eight British criminals with an average age of 57, the oldest member being 83, pleaded guilty to counterfeiting charges. The Serious Organised Crime Agency said the gang ran their money-printing operation like a legitimate business, working from sites in London and Glasgow. Each could produce a batch of notes worth £800 in an hour. Police recovered a stash of £5m in counterfeit currency: £4.4m worth of fake euros and £600,000 in bogus £20 notes. They worked from scans of genuine notes, used a £9,000 foiling machine for inserting metal strips, and produced what the Bank of England acknowledged were among the most realistic notes ever seized. A screen drama waiting to be told.
Nick “The Lick” Stoeberl from California has a tongue measuring 10.10cm (nearly 4in) from tip to lip. The 24-year-old is an artist who paints with his tongue by wrapping it in clingfilm, dipping it in acrylic paint, then licking the canvas. “I think one of the most useful things my tongue offers is that I have no need for a napkin,” he says. “If I get food on my face, I just lick it off. The only downside is that I have to spend longer brushing my tongue in the morning.” He has a challenger, though: Michigan teenager Adrianne “Long Tongue” Lewis can lick her eyeballs and claims hers is even longer. This is currently unverified.
She might be an asthmatic with an awkward gait and unorthodox nodding style, but Cheshire’s mighty Paula Jane Radcliffe MBE is one of our last remaining athletics record-holders. The three-time London Marathon winner shattered the record during the 2003 race with a time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds – more than 3 minutes below anyone else in history. Race director Dave Bedford, a former 10,000m world champion himself, called it “the greatest distance running performance I’ve seen in my lifetime; it ranks in my mind alongside the impact of Bob Beamon’s long jump in 1968”. Radcliffe’s mark has stood for 12 years and she continues to hold the three fastest women’s marathon times ever.
One of the most recent records set, August saw super-fit 50-year-old Welsh builder Carlton Williams complete an incredible 2,220 press-ups in an hour, smashing his own previous record of 1,874, and achieved despite injuring his shoulder midway through. Williams said he did it to “prove for once and for all that the Welsh people are physically, socially and spiritually superior”. He’s got a long way to go, though, before he beats the most press-ups completed in 24 hours: 46,001, a record accomplished by Massachusetts teacher Charles Servizio that has remained unbeaten for 22 years.
What’s the weather like up there? Etc. The tallest man in medical history died 75 years ago but experts believe he’ll never be beaten. When Robert Pershing Wadlow from Illinois was measured shortly before his death in 1940, he was found to be 2.72m (8ft 11in) tall. Wadlow was buried in a coffin measuring 3ft x 11ft. He weighed 35st on his 21st birthday, his shoe size was 37AA (47cm/18.5in long), his handspan was more than 32cm (12in) and he consumed up to 8000 calories daily. By the age of nine, he was able to carry his 6ft father up the stairs of the family home. There are only 10 confirmed cases in history of humans reaching 8ft or more. The current world’s tallest is Turkish farmer Sultan Kösen at 8ft 3in.
Jeanne Calment, once described by President Jacques Chirac as “a grandmother to the French people”, lived to the grand old age of 122 years 164 days. Born in 1875, she witnessed the construction of the Eiffel Tower and once sold some coloured pencils to Vincent van Gogh, describing him as “dirty, badly dressed and disagreeable”. Calment led an active life, taking up fencing at 85 and still cycling at 100. At the age of 114, she played herself in the film Vincent & Me (990) – becoming the oldest actress to appear in a motion picture. She said her keys to long life were olive oil, port and chocolate. Asked on her 120th birthday what she expected of the future, she replied: ”A very short one.” She finally died in 1997.
The record is 45 and was achieved by Italian fitness trainer Silvio Sabba. That might not knock your socks off, but its appearance in our list is due to Sabba being a serial world record holder. He currently holds 70 titles, including most clothes pegs on your face in one minute (51), most Ferrero Rocher chocolates stacked in a tower (12), most AA batteries held in one hand (48), most sugar cubes balanced on the chin (17), most CDs balanced on the finger (255) and fastest time to shell a boiled egg (2.66 secs). Sabba even has a tattoo saying “Guinness World Records” on his right forearm.
In the 65 years since the FBI first published its list of 10 most wanted fugitives, 94% of them have been located. The criminal who’s been on the list longer than anyone is Victor Manuel Gerena, added in 1984 and still at large 31 years later. He’s wanted in connection to the Los Macheteros (“The Machete Wielders”) Puerto Rican terror group and the armed robbery of a Wells Fargo armoured car facility in Connecticut. Working there as a security guard, Gerena tied up two co-workers, put $7.1m in the boot of his car and fled. He’s widely believed to be in Cuba and there’s a $1m reward for information leading to his arrest.