NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?
The 96-year-old Nathan's Famous Fourth Of July Hot Dog Eating Contest this year will be sporting a brand new division for female competitors.
Richard Shea, President of Major League Eating, touted the change.
"At the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, our biggest day, we've seen that in recent years that women just haven't had a shot at a title. We felt as though they were every bit as fun and exciting to watch as the men," Shea said.
There will now be two televised competitions on the Fourth of July at the corner of Surf & Stillwell Avenues.
The top women at each of the regional qualifiers will be invited to compete at the main event in Brooklyn.
Richard Shea: It will be a historic moment for women.
Previously, the chomp-ionship was mixed gender, though the vast majority of "gurgitators" were male.
"Since there are more and more women getting into the sport, and we feel that they deserve their just rewards, we're going to do a distinct round where they get a prize and championship belt and everything that goes with it," Shea added.
In 2010, only two women were among the finalists comp-eat-ing on July 4.
Web Extra: Listen to the entire interview with Richard Shea on the women's division
Shea said separating the competitors was also driven in part by the increasing amount of women participating in the event.
Sonya Thomas is top dog among the female competitors, downing a record 41 hot dogs and buns. "She's sort of known as the Mia Hamm of ham," Shea said. In 2005, she placed second.
"Sonya Thomas is Anna Kournikova with a smear and some nova. She's been called the Michelle Wie of brie. But she's never been called the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Champ," Shea said. "I think that on July 4, when for the first time ever we'll be able to crown a female hot dog eating champ, that is a great moment."
Check out photos from the 2010 competition here.
What do you think of the women's only division? Is it a good idea? Will you be watching the competition? Sound off in our comments section.
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