Erik "The Red" Denmark Chomps 29 Hot Dogs at the Nathan's Famous Qualifier in Tempe

Categories: Feasts of Fury

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Jonathan McNamara
The aftermath of Saturday's Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Qualifier at Arizona Mills Mall.
​Next time you prepare to chow down on a plump, all-beef hot dog, ask yourself this question: how many can you eat in ten minutes? Two? Four? If you think that kind of lazy eating is going to cut the mustard with the International Federation of Competitive Eating, you'd better go back to the fridge...and eat it.

Several competitive eaters worth their salt (an obscenely large amount of digested salt) met once again on the field of gurgitory battle at Arizona Mills Mall for the qualifying round to advance to the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest held on July 4 on Coney Island. Hundreds sat in attendance as Master of Ceremonies Richard Shea introduced the competitive eaters.

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Jonathan McNamara
Michelle Lesco from Tucson poses for a victory shot with a friend after qualifying for Coney Island with 21.5 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
​Everyone with ESPN and an iron-clad stomach has seen coverage of the Natthan's event and therefore knows powerhouse names in professional eating such as Joey Chestnut, Takeru Kobayashi and possibly Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas. For the most part, Saturday's event featured a roster of eaters yet to make their mark on the sport. Richie Barriga from Gilbert, showed up for Saturday's competition to cross competitive hot dog consumption off his bucket list. Ryan McKillop drove in for the qualifier all the way from Sacramento and didn't bother training.

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Jonathan McNamara
Erik "The Red" Denmark smooches his hard-won trophy at the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Qualifier on Saturday, June 11, 2011.
​Erik "The Red" Denmark is a different story; maybe even a different kind of book. Denmark had already won the Tempe qualifier twice before taking down his third victory with 25 hot dogs and buns in a mere ten minutes on Saturday. At the moment consumption commenced, Denmark was all business; swallowing water-logged buns in speedy gulps and biting through dogs two at a time like some sort of Hemi-equipped beaver. No one came close save for Michelle Lesco from Tucson who took the female qualification with 21.5 hot dogs and buns in ten minutes.

But gurgitorial success is not without its risks. Two competitors suffered a "reversal of fortune," competitive eating code for throwing up. Gross? Sure, but surely these would-be champions of mass consumption will rise against this stumbling block to go on and gurgitate like none before them...or at least swallow a few Tums and take a nap.

For more hot dog-chomping action, check out our Nathan's Famous Qualifier slideshow.


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