Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Speed-Eaters Square off in Krystal Contest; Winner Downs 52 in 8 Minutes, Feels Fine after Competition at the Landing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Speed-Eaters Square off in Krystal Contest; Winner Downs 52 in 8 Minutes, Feels Fine after Competition at the Landing

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BAUERLEIN

The best athletes have a fire in the belly when it comes to competition.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut also had 52 Krystal hamburgers there after winning an eight-minute speed-eating contest Monday at The Jacksonville Landing.

While a crowd cheered and gawked under the broiling afternoon sun, master of ceremonies George Shea kept a running commentary on the gut-wrenching action.

"It's like watching Picasso paint," Shea proclaimed. "The little hamburgers are diving down his throat."

"I have not felt so much emotion since the birth of my first child, a son," Shea raved at the 37-burger mark.

"There was a moment there at the end where I feared I had a brain aneurysm," Shea said after the mouth-weary contestants put down the burgers and wiped their chins.

The first-place finish means Chestnut, a California resident, qualified for next month's Krystal Square Off III world championship eating contest, which will offer $30,000 in prize money. ESPN is scheduled to televise the Oct. 28 event.

The Krystal contest gave people a chance to get an up-close look at the world of speed-eating, which competitors treat as a sport. The International Federation of Competitive Eating keeps rankings of the top eaters, who travel around the country and tear into just about anything. Asparagus, grilled cheese sandwiches, pork ribs, lobster, oysters on the half shell, hot dogs and crab cakes are among the fare that have gone down the chute.

Competitors have voracious appetites, but they train for individual events by focusing on the particular food that will be on the platter.

Chestnut fell short of his personal best of 62 Krystal burgers, but he had a good explanation. On Sunday, he consumed a record-breaking 23 large buttermilk waffles in 12 minutes to capture first place and a $5,000 prize in the Waffle House World Waffle-Eating Championship in Atlanta. …

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