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July 28, 2014

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On the other side of the camera

Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest Qualifier | New York-New York | April 28, 2012 | 4:41 p.m.

I’ve been an acquaintance of Ron Koch for a few years now. I’ve known him as a house photographer for the MGM Grand, where he has been in residence since 1993, and I’ve known him as the photographer for the NBA for two decades, beginning in 1970. What I didn’t realize until a couple years ago is that Ron is also a competitive eater.

Known in gurgitation circles by nicknames such as “Hizzoner,” a nod to his native New York City, or “The Optic,” in reference to the glasses he wears during competition, Koch is ranked 31st in the world. At last Saturday’s Nathan’s Famous qualifier for the finals at Coney Island, Koch came in third, edged out by local legend Richard LeFevre, who made a surprise appearance by coming out of retirement, and last year’s champion Sean “Flash” Gordon. While Koch didn’t earn a trip to the July 4 finals, his black goggles, gloves and dripping hot dog were enough to make my picture.

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