Belfast Telegraph

Petite American woman vows to win World Oyster Eating Championships

By Amanda Poole

Meet Sonya Thomas. She's a petite 45-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia, USA. But don't let the American's small frame fool you — Sonya is also known as The Black Widow.

The Korean-born woman, gave herself the nickname, due to her desire to “make boys out of men” in eating contests.

She holds dozens of food eating records and is the USA's fourth most successful competitive eater.

Sonya will be making her way to Northern Ireland in the next two weeks to compete in the World Oyster Eating Championships in Co Down.

They are part of the 20th Hillsborough Oyster Festival, which takes place this year from September 6-9.

At present, Dromore man Colin Shirlow, known as The Oyster King, holds the Guinness World Record for oyster eating.

He remains undefeated after setting the record at the Hillsborough Oyster Festival in 2005, when he ate 233 oysters in just three minutes.

Four years ago, Sonya fancied her chances against the Co Down salesman, but after a close contest he emerged triumphant.

Now Sonya's coming back on September 8 for a second bite at the oyster title and she means business.

The Belfast Telegraph spoke to Colin about his upcoming grudge match and he's confident he can beat Sonya.

“She's a formidable opponent, of that there is no doubt. When she was over four years ago I competed against her on two occasions,” Colin said.

“At the Thursday night heat she beat me, but on Saturday in the final, I won. We were neck and neck the whole way. I just beat her and no more.”

Colin would be justified in being worried about taking on The Black Widow, as she can consume a remarkable amount of food in a short time.

Her records include:

  • 564 oysters in eight minutes
  • 44 soft shell lobsters in 12 minutes
  • 52 hard boiled eggs in five minutes
  • 183 chicken wings in 12 minutes
  • 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes
  • 250 jalapeno peppers in nine minutes
  • 11 pounds of cheesecake in nine minutes.

The Black Widow told the Belfast Telegraph she was looking forward to returning to Hillsborough and taking on Colin.

“Colin is an amazing oyster eater, and I have a lot of respect for his talent,” she said.

“Breaking his record of 233 oysters in three minutes will be extremely challenging.

“I have the Major League Eating record of eating 47 dozen oysters in eight minutes, which I set in April of this year.

“In that contest you have to use a cocktail fork, stabbing the oysters individually from each half shell.

“This contest has different rules, in that each shell has to be lifted to the mouth, and the oyster sucked out.

“It usually takes me a minute or two to get my rhythm, and three minutes is such a short time. However, I am very confident in my ability.”

Sonya says her hand-speed is better than most men and this puts her at an advantage in oyster eating, but Colin says he's not fazed.

He only eats oysters once a year, at the competition and hopes with the home advantage he can beat his own world record.

“She's coming back with gusto to take the title,” Colin said. “She's not just over on a whim.

“I'm looking forward to it. I hope she does push me.

“It's the 20th anniversary of the festival and I'm aiming to beat my own record.”

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Team USA

Name: Sonya Thomas

From: Alexandria, Virginia

Known as: The Black Widow

Age: 45

Height: 5ft 5in

Weight: 7st 1lb

Oyster count: 564 in eight minutes

Team Northern Ireland

Name: Colin Shirlow

From: Dromore, Co Down

Known as: The Oyster King

Age: 56

Height: 5ft 10in

Weight: 15st 7lb

Oyster count: 233 in three minutes

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