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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 March, 2004, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
US 'speed eater' devours rivals
Sonya Thomas slays the competition at a jambalaya contest
Thomas says she has always been a fierce competitor
In America's tough world of eating contests, one woman is devouring the competition.

Nicknamed "the Black Widow", Sonya Thomas has won a string of titles on the US speed eating circuit, where contestants vie with each other to eat the largest amount of a certain food in a specified time.

The International Federation of Competitive Eating has even called the diminutive Korean-American a legend.

"I don't like to lose," she told Reuters news agency.

"That's my personality, so even the eating contest - I have to win. If I lose, I feel terrible."

Huge appetite

The former manager of a Burger King fast food restaurant, Ms Thomas said she had always been a fierce competitor in sports.

And last year, the Virginia state resident decided that speed eating was perfect for her huge appetite.

Sonya Thomas' triumphs
World Taco Eating Championships, New York City: 42 chicken tacos in 11 minutes
Hogwild Festival, Mississippi: 23 pulled pork sandwiches in 10 minutes
XFest, Indiana: 65 hard-boiled eggs in six minutes and 40 seconds
After slaying the competition in the state of New Jersey's hot dog eating competition, Ms Thomas headed to New York City for the jewel in the speed eating crown - Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest.

On a hot July day, Ms Thomas stunned the organisers by eating 25 hot dogs with buns in 12 minutes, coming a respectable fourth in the contest and breaking the women's record.

Following her success at the contest, Ms Thomas quit her job and began participating in eating contests full time.

She ate 42 chicken tacos in 11 minutes at the World Taco Eating Championships in New York City and 23 pulled pork (southern style smoked pork) sandwiches in 10 minutes at the Hogwild Festival in Corinth, Mississippi.

And at a competition in Indiana, an astonished crowd of more than 22,000 people cheered her on as she ate a whopping 65 hard-boiled eggs in only six minutes and 40 seconds.


Weighing less than 45kg (100 pounds), Ms Thomas seems an unlikely speed eating champion, but she takes her new vocation seriously - visiting all-you-can-eat buffets whenever she can and exercising on a treadmill for two hours at least five times a week.

And far from sniping at her success, fellow competitive eaters have heaped praise on Ms Thomas' abilities.

"She looks like a beauty pageant winner [but] she's the real deal," said fellow competitor Crazy Legs Conti, himself the 2002 World Oyster Eating champion.

"She's the one to beat in... almost every contest in America."

Hot dog contest leaves sour taste
07 Jul 99  |  Americas
Frankfurter foodfight
05 Jul 98  |  Americas

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