When it comes to competitive eating, Miki Sudo is no outsider.
The 36-year-old, ranked as the first eater in the worldis ready to reclaim her title this year Nathan’s Famous 4th of July Hot Dog Eating Contest after sitting down last year with a bun in the oven: her first child, Max, born July 8, 2021.
While its unprecedented seven consecutive years of victories — from 2014 to 2020 — was on hiatus last summer, Sudo said she plans to stand out in her planned return to what she calls “the Super Bowl of competitive eating.”
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“There’s no second place,” Sudo told Insider during a break from a gym workout in Tampa. She has her eye on the prized mustard belt – and the $20,000 purse – at the beloved Coney Island competition, which is televised on ESPN and has even become legal to bet on in three states last year.
Sudo, who competes in a dozen professional eating contests a year, has an ambitious goal for this year’s contest: to eat 50 dogs, including buns, in 10 minutes. She clinched her first mustard belt in 2014 with 34 hot dogs and earned her last title in 2020 beating 48.5.
To reclaim her title, she will have to overcome at least one notable setback: a wrist injury to her left hand, which she uses to dunk dogs in buckets of water — a popular technique among the food elites. “I only dip with my left hand,” she said. “Now I’m going to have to do it with my right too.”
But she’s not fazed; despite her injury, Sudo still placed second in a spring roll eaters championship in Lubbock, Texas in June.
Recovering from pregnancy, Sudo doesn’t see herself as ‘a girl who participates in a male sport’
Even after gaining 40 pounds during her pregnancy and undergoing a C-section, Sudo got back to fighting — or eating — in 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 protein, fresh produce and lots of hydration. She also visits an “old-fashioned” weight room several times a week to lift weights with her husband, a bodybuilder and competitive eater. Nick Wehry.
“I like to get used to the heat, to be a healthy weight, to follow my diet, to be as perfectly disciplined as possible,” she said.
Sudo regularly competes against 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, since his upset victory in one of his earliest competitions, the RibMania Showdown 2013at the National Chicken Wing Festival last September, when she felled 246 wings at 244 in Chestnut 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,” the five-foot-seven, 135-pound Sudo said. “I don’t feel like I have more to prove as a woman anymore…I think I’m much more under the skin of the male competitors than they get to me.”
Sudo said she was surprised that her closest competitors hadn’t exploited the opening to dominate in her absence. While pregnant last year, “none of the women vying to win worked harder,” she said of her closest rivals Sarah Rodriguez and winner Nathan last year, Michelle Lesco, who landed a respectable, but distant 30.75 Hot Dogs. “I’m like, ‘This throne is vacant. The sash is up for grabs.'”
Maybe she’s just hungrier than the competition.
“If I’m going to make competitive food, I won’t be a mediocre competitive eater,” she said. “I’m going to be the best person to do this ridiculous sport-hobby.”
“If you’re going to eat hot dogs, you might as well try to look good doing it”
Sudo said she has come a long way since her debut a decade ago as an outsider in the island, wacky world. “The first year, at Nathan’s in particular, 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 attributes at least some of her foodie acrobatics to nature. “I realized I had a genetic predisposition and advantage to it,” she said. “I didn’t reach my abilities by banging my head against the wall in training. There’s something inside me.”
Sudo said she led a normal life and was hardly recognized. “I think it’s because I have a face full of makeup when I’m on TV,” she said. “Even when I eat hot dogs, I usually have false eyelashes. If you’re going to eat hot dogs, you might as well try to look good doing it.”
Max, who is 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 and avocado salad drizzled with habanero vinegar and nibbled it without flinching. .
As she makes a “modest living” off competitive eating and has no intention of slowing down on the circuit, Sudo is looking to expand her career next year, launching a program to become a dental hygienist. She also has another title in mind: “Maybe the next chapter is an ESPN guest commentator,” she said.