Women score equal rights in hot dog eating contest

After telling organizers of a hot dog eating contest to stuff it, women have been able to secure an equal payout for the winner in the female-only division of a century-old major league eating competition.

For the first time in its 96-year history, Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest announced it would be opening up a women's-only division in this year's competition, an annual tradition held on Coney Island, New York, every Fourth of July.

But when it was revealed that the cash prize for the female winner would be $2,500 - a quarter of the prize money in the men's division - a public backlash pushed organizers to eat their words and change the pot to $10,000, the same amount for the male winner.

"We were contacted by numerous fans of Nathan's who pointed out that despite the prize disparity in men's and women's divisions of other professional sports, the Nathan's prizes should be the same," Nathan's Famous president Wayne Norbitz told The New York Daily News this week. "We listened to that input."

The undisputed, professional female eater to beat this year, Sonya ‘The Black Widow' Thomas, will have her eye on the big pot as a world record holder in the female category for eating 41 hot dogs in 10 minutes in 2009.

Weighing all of 105 pounds (47 kg) and standing 5 feet tall (1.5 m), Thomas holds 38 world records for everything from fried catfish, oysters, chicken wings and sweet corn.

But despite her ability to out-eat men and devour them in the competition - hence the moniker ‘The Black Widow' - hot dogs pose a different sort of challenge for women. No woman has ever snagged the championship title.

The winner of last year's hot dog eating contest, Joey Chestnut, downed 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Nathan's is currently conducting a qualifying circuit in 12 cities across the US to secure competitors from around the country.

The competition is also holding international qualifying events in Beijing, China, and Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Fourth of July contest will be aired live on sports channel ESPN at 12:40 pm EDT but it also attracts 40,000 spectators to the event.

To enter for a chance to compete, visit  http://nathansfamous.com/PageFetch/getpage.php?pgid=38 for a schedule of the circuit.

Nathan's Famous started on Coney Island and now has 234 restauant locations across the US. Their hot dogs are also sold in 18,000 locations worldwide.

The next major eating competition is the Isle Boonville World Boneless Buffalo Wing Eating Championship May 7, in Boonville, Missouri.