Is Competitive Eating Really a Sport?
Competitive eating also known as speed eating is a sport that is popular in the USA and Japan. The participants compete by consuming large quantities of food within a short time frame. The person who consumes the most food within the specified amount of time is the winner. Organized competitive eating events often offer prizes of $10,000 or more.
Traditionally in the United States, County fairs were known for pie eating contests. This was something that was just done for fun and very nominal prizes for the winner. Local pie eating contests were popular as far back as the 1800's. Recently we have seen competitive eating as a strange phenomenon that has taken off and has become legitimized.
In the 1970's Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest Was started at Coney Island. This competition has become an annual event. This is a very popular contest and some of the most renowned competitive eater has competed in it at some point. Takeru Kobayashi held the Coney Island title from 2001 thru 2006 and then lost to Joey Chestnut in 2007. In 2008 Kobayashi and Chestnut tied by each eating 59 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Chestnut won in the eat off and kept his title.
There are actual organizations that have legitimized competitive eating as a sport. The International Federation of Competitive Eating actually Hosts major league eating events through out the world more then 100 events are hosted by this organization each year. ESPN has and continues to cover some of these events.
The Association of Independent Competitive Eaters is a smaller league which was founded by former International Federation member Arnie “Chowhound" Chapman. The association adopted the title All Pro Eating promotions back in 2008. This is the most popular organization because it allows independent eaters to compete.
The types of foods used in competition are varied. Generally only one type of food is used in a competition. Hotdogs, hamburgers, pies, pancakes and pizzas are just a few that are commonly used for eating competitions.
Many of the professional competitive eaters train rigorously for months to prepare for a competition. The most important factor is stomach elasticity so training will include drinking large amounts of water in a short time period to stretch the stomach. Some of the pros will chew a lot of gum to increase their jaw strength.
One of the major eating competitions that are featured on ESPN is the Nathans Hot Dog Eating Contest which is televised live on July 4th of each year.