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Kyle "The Hammer" Hanner
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Joey Chestnut, left, and Kyle "The Hammer" Hanner at Eastern Shore Wing War Amateur Wing Eating Championship.
ALTON — For the first time, the Nathan's Famous International hot dog eating championship qualifier is making a stop in St. Louis, and the Metro East has a reason to rally.
Hometown eater Kyle “The Hammer” Hanner will compete in the event Saturday, May 17, for the chance to advance to the Fourth of July Coney Island Championship. According to the International Federation of Competitive Eating, the live telecast of the event has consistently attracted millions of viewers since ESPN first aired the contest in 2004.
“The Hammer,” a 2008 graduate of East Alton-Wood River High School, is taking a seat against some of the world’s greatest eaters: Eric Badlands Booker (No. 22), Sean Gordon (No. 15), Matt Raible (No. 33) and Josh Miller (No. 36). The qualifier will take place at Busch Stadium before the Cardinals game, where eating legend and champion Joey “Jaws” Chestnut will throw the first pitch.
The top male and female finisher will each qualify for a spot to compete in the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island on July 4th.
“I’ve followed the Nathan’s Famous contest every July since junior high,” Hanner said. “Once I entered my first contest and when I saw how I stacked up against professionals, I was hooked.”
Hanner received his first win over a professional, Tim “Gravy” Brown, at the CrackFry (french fry) eating contest in Grand Rapids, Mich. Hanner took home the $500 first prize after eating 4.4 pounds of fries in seven minutes.
To date, 2014 has given “The Hammer” 17 wins from seven states and 12 cities. Training from a long history of wrestling has helped Hanner with his eating, as well as studying videos of past winners.
Specifically for the qualifier, Hanner has been working on capacity and technique.
“In a nutshell, I eat a lot of food, drink a lot of liquids or a combination of the two in short periods of time,” Hanner said.
Last year’s Fourth of July championship ended after Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., consumed 69 hot dogs and buns. Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., walked away as female champion after she consumed more than 36 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes.
“The Hammer” fans, who Hanner refers as “Ham Fans,” are planning to be in attendance for the qualifier at Busch Stadium. Their support is what keeps Hanner going.
“I appreciate my Ham Fans. I represent them and the St. Louis area everywhere I go.”
Other cities to host a qualifier for the 2014 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Circuit include Las Vegas, Boston, Cleveland, Bloomington and more.
Ham Fans can stay connected with “The Hammer” by liking his journey on Facebook.