BEIJING — The family of He Pingping, the world's shortest man, said Tuesday they were shocked by his unexpected death in Italy, saying he had shown no previous signs of bad health.
"We just did not expect this bad news," his sister He Lihua told AFP over the phone from Baotou, a city in the northern region of Inner Mongolia where he lived.
"Pingping went to Italy... and he called us every day saying he wasn't eating well and that he missed us."
He Pingping, who had been named the world's shortest man by Guinness World Records, suffered chest problems while in Rome where he was taking part in a television show, and was taken to hospital but died over the weekend.
He Lihua said her brother, who had a form of primordial dwarfism and measured less than 75 centimetres (30 inches), had showed no signs of bad health before he left for Italy.
"Unfortunately we cannot go there and we can only wait for his body to come back," He said, adding that the family would be asking the Italian company behind the television show to pay for the funeral.
He's main rival to the title, Nepal's Khagendra Thapa Magar, said Tuesday he was saddened by the news.
"I offer my heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Ping. I met him a month ago for the first time and our first meeting was to be our last," said Magar, who travelled to Italy earlier this year to take part in the television show.
Magar, who is just 51 centimetres tall, applied to Guinness World Records to be recognised as the world's shortest man in February, when his family said he had turned 18.
But the organisation is reported to have questioned whether that is his true age.
Guinness World Records said it would announce He's successor as the world's shortest man in due course.
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