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Miki Sudo has won the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest seven times, and plans to reclaim her title.
The competitive eater, who took last year off to have a baby, wants to break her own record.
Refusing to be a 'girl in a man's sport,' she's beaten the world's #1 eater, Joey Chestnut.
When it comes to competitive eating, Miki Sudo is no underdog.
The 36-year-old, ranked as the world's number-one female eater, is ready to reclaim her title at this year's Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest after she sat out last year with a bun in the oven: her first child, Max, born on July 8, 2021.
While her unprecedented seven-year winning streak — from 2014 through 2020 — was interrupted last summer, Sudo said she plans to come out top dog upon her anticipated return to what she calls "the Super Bowl of competitive eating."
—ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 4, 2020
"There's no second place," Sudo told Insider during a break from gym training in Tampa. She has her eye on the prized Mustard Belt — and $20,000 purse — at the beloved Coney Island competition, which is televised on ESPN and even became legal to bet on in three states last year.
Sudo, who participates in a dozen or so professional eating competitions a year, has a lofty goal for this year's contest: eating 50 dogs, including the buns, in 10 minutes. She nabbed her first Mustard Belt in 2014 with 34 hot dogs, and secured her last title in 2020 by downing 48.5.
To reclaim her title, she'll have to overcome at least one notable setback: a wrist injury on her left hand, which she uses to dunk the dogs into buckets of water — a popular technique among eating elites. "I only dunk with my left hand," she said. "Now, I'll have to do that with my right too."
But she's not fazed; despite her injury, Sudo still placed second in an egg-roll eating championship in Lubbock, Texas in June.
Rebounding from pregnancy, Sudo doesn't see herself as 'a girl competing in a man's sport'
Even after gaining 40 pounds during her pregnancy and undergoing a C-section, Sudo got back into fighting — or eating — shape quickly. "If anything, [having a baby] stretched me out more," she said. "That's probably a good thing."
To prepare her body for a return to competition, she stuck to lean proteins, fresh produce and lots of hydration. She also hits an "old-school" bodybuilding gym several times a week to lift weights with her husband, bodybuilder and competitive eater Nick Wehry.
"I like getting used to the heat, being at a healthy weight, getting my diet dialed in — just being as perfectly disciplined as possible," she said.
Sudo regularly goes toe-to-toe with the world's most famous eaters, including Joey Chestnut, the popular world number-one competitive eater.
Sudo has upset Chestnut, the sport's most visible personality, in multiple contests over the years, from her surprise win in one of her first competitions, the 2013 RibMania showdown, to last September's National Chicken Wing Festival, when she downed 246 wings to Chestnut's 244 in 12 minutes. (It was her first competition after giving birth; she also edged out her husband.)
"I don't see myself as a girl competing in a men's sport," said the five-foot-seven, 135-pound Sudo. "I don't feel like I have any more to prove as a woman ... I think I get under male competitors' skin way more than they get to me."
Sudo said she was surprised that her closest female competitors didn't exploit the opening to dominate in her absence. As she sat out pregnant last year, "neither of the women in line to win worked any harder," she said of her closest rivals, Sarah Rodriguez and last year's Nathan's winner, Michelle Lesco, who scarfed a respectable, but far distant 30.75 hot dogs. "I'm like, 'This throne is vacant. The belt is for the taking.'"
Maybe she's just hungrier than the competition.
"If I'm going to do competitive eating, I'm not going to be a mediocre competitive eater," she said. "I'm going to be the best damn person to do this ridiculous hobby-slash-sport."
'If you're going to be scarfing down hot dogs, you might as well try to look good while doing it'
Sudo said she's come a long way from her start a decade ago, as an outsider in the insular and wacky world. "The first year, at Nathan's especially, I felt like I had to prove to people that I belonged there," she said.
While the rest of the pack trains around the clock, she credits at least some of her gastronomic acrobatics to nature. "I've realized I have a genetic predisposition and advantage to this," she said. "I didn't get to my capacity through bashing my head against the wall training. There's something inside of me."
Sudo said she lives a normal life and hardly gets recognized. "I think it's because I have a full face of makeup on when I'm on TV," she said. "Even when I'm eating hot dogs, I typically have fake eyelashes on. If you're going to be scarfing down hot dogs, you might as well try to look good while doing it."
Max, who's about to turn one, is a chip off the old block. "He eats constantly — he tends to like all foods," Sudo said, noting that he recently grabbed a chicken avocado salad doused in habanero vinegar and snacked on it without flinching.
While she earns a "modest living" from competitive eating and has no plans to slow down on the circuit, Sudo is working to expand her career next year, starting a program to become a dental hygienist. She has another title in mind as well: "Maybe the next chapter is ESPN guest commentator," she said.
Read the original article on Insider