Athletes & Celebrities

Women's Competitive Eater Talks Training For Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

No. 8 ranked competitive eater Michelle Lesco dishes on preparation.

Nathan Contest Competitor

Most of us will be looking forward to a enjoying a nice, grilled hotdog this weekend at Fourth of July barbecues, topped with all of our favorite condiments.  But the folks competing in the 2015 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest this Saturday afternoon will skip those dog toppings, because it's all about the numbers, including the money.

The storied contest takes place at Nathan's Famous original site in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn and pits the world's most talented competitive eaters against each other for $40,000 of prize money that will be divvied up amongst the top five men and women in their categories.  Nathan's will also donate 100,000 hot dogs to a NYC food bank after all of the holiday carnage. The women's competition will be broadcast live at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN3 and the men's competition will be live at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Though all eyes will be on previous champions Joey Chestnut (Men's) and Miki Sudo (Women's), one eater awaits her chance to shine. Arizona native Michelle Lesco placed third last year, wolfing down a total of 27 dogs, but is eager to muscle her way through and give her friend Sudo a challenge.

The 31-year-old Arizona high school math teacher is known as  "Cardboard Shell," in the competitive eating world and stands at 5'4" and only weighing close to 115 pounds. This year, her goal is to break the 30-hot dog barrier. When she does, it will be for charity, as it always has.

Through four years of traveling the country as a competitive eater, Lesco has helped raise over $10,000 for charitable organizations that impact the global water crisis. Working with youth and giving back inspires her to reach the pinnacle of the Nathan's contest. 

Lesco got her got her start by taking on a local Tuscan restaurant's 3-pound burger challenge and finishig it in less than 20 minutes. After her friends saw what she could tackle at the table, they encouraged her to seriously compete. 

After placing seventh in her first competition (oysters!), a fire was lit inside Lesco and unleashed upon the rest of the competitive eating world elite.  During the following day's taco-eating contest, Lesco says she "went balls to the wall and ended up getting second place, beating Sonya Thomas [a former Nathan's champion]. I was the first female to ever beat her so that was really cool."

Following her breakthrough performance there, Lesco spent the next few years zig-zagging across the U.S. on her teacher's salary, in search of the most prestigious competitions, and eating everything from tacos to brownie desserts. When it comes to contests that test capacity, Lesco tends to be realistic and will pace herself, while taking into account how much liquid she can hold. Other contests, like those that showcase ribs or wings, are more conducive to Lesco's stomach threshold.  "I tend to do a lot better in those and I'm a lot more confident because I can kind of push as hard as the next guy," she says.

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