By: Elliott Chu
Outside of Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs in New York City, large tables are set outside in the warm sunshine with a salty ocean mist to host one of the biggest events: Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Contest. On July 4th loads of people will come watch the competitive eaters eat lots of hot dogs to win prizes. Nobody would know that a person that overcame a severe disease would be able to compete and win third place.
At the age of 27, James Webb, a professional soccer player, went to sleep normally one night but woke up paralyzed, contracting Guillain-Barre Syndrome and becoming blind from cataracts. He needed a ventilator to help him breathe. But slowly, he taught himself how to walk and breathe without the need of medical equipment. With special surgery and a new treatment, he gradually regained his sight. Before he realized it, he was fighting hard to become a competitive eater.
Webb started his competitive eating journey by finishing a 5 kg burger, wedges, fries, onion rings, three cans of soft drinks and a piece of cheesecake at a Cessnock restaurant. Because he was on live TV for finishing a burger that 55 people have tried and failed, America’s Major League Eating invited him to compete in the US. He completed 26 eating challenges in 10 days and became a professional eater for a living.
Webb is more than his disease now because he pushes himself over the limits to overcome it. Doctors told him that he could never walk again, so he worked extremely hard to start walking again. Even though he eats 15 kg of food every day, he still goes to the gym and exercises regularly so that he is fit and healthy with only 10% body fat. Webb says that a lot of people think that competitive eaters “must be very overweight”, but this is only a myth. James Webb went on to complete the Hot Dog competition by finishing with eating 47 hotdogs in 10 minutes.
Other than the hot dog contest, he has broken several records: eating 38 pancakes in one hour, eating 17 sausage sizzle sandwiches in three minutes, and eating a 3.5 kg doughnut in 20 minutes. These are all record-breaking stats.