TENSIONS were running high as competitors from far and wide gathered for this year’s World Pie Eating Championships.
Above the excited chatter inside Harry’s Bar in Wigan, talk of tactics could be heard as pie eaters anxiously supped their pints ahead of the main event.
But in the end it all came down to one thing, who could eat their pie the fastest.
And the man who succeeded in doing just that was 42-year-old Neil Collier, who smashed the world record by 12 seconds according to officials, and halved last year’s time of 47 seconds by finishing his pie in just 23.91 seconds.
But the man’s win was a controversial one as he is from rival town Bolton, although he insists the title remains in Wigan.
He said: “I feel great about winning and am really happy to be the champion.
“People don’t need to worry about the title going back to Bolton, because I have lived in Wigan for two years.
“I am an honorary Wiganer and the trophy will be staying here.”
This year’s competition saw 20 men and one woman compete for the prestigious title, which is now in its 19th year, although most struggled to keep up with Neil.
Last year’s winner, Barry Rigby, says he is right behind the town’s new champ.
The Beech Hill man said: “I had finished my pie but hadn’t swallowed it yet, so I am a little disappointed.
“But it is all just a bit of fun, and I will be coming back again next year to try and regain the title.”
The event saw the town centre pub packed out with supporters and press who all wanted to get a glimpse of their winner.
Since the competition, which is the brainchild of the bar’s owner Tony Callaghan, began, it has snowballed in popularity.
Tony said: “Today’s competition saw quite a turn out in terms of contestants, and the coverage the event attracts from the media is fantastic.
“We even had CBeebies here filming a piece on the event, which will be brilliant for the town.
“When we launched the competition, it was just a bit of fun.
“But since then it has just exploded, and it is now one of the biggest sporting events in Wigan.”
Also in the running was Wigan comic Jimmy O’Neil, who entered as his daft alter ego, Ronnie Foster, but things did not go as planned.
Ronnie said: “I’d had a load of bacon butties this morning so I wasn’t hungry, and I didn’t like the pie either, so I took one bite out of it and put it down.”
Winner Neil, from Springfield, said: “I decided to enter the competition about three months ago as I am quite a fast eater anyway and I eat plenty of pies.
“Preparing for the event wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me, and I had got some really quick times in practice, so I knew I could do it quickly on the day. I am made up with my time.
“I will definitely be coming back again next year to defend my title.”