A REMATCH between chilli-chomping champions took a surprising turn as things heated up in an Oxfordshire town square at the weekend.

Oxfordshire Chilli Festival returned to Abingdon on Saturday, along with its infamous chilli-eating challenge.

Around 30 growers, traders and fast food sellers had stalls laden with fiery products to please even the most spice-loving attendees from 10am in Market Place.

To wash away the mouth-numbing offerings there was also the new addition of a gin bar with 25 different varieties, as well as live music on the main stage courtesy of Abingdon collective Skittle Alley.

The main event, however, was the chilli-eating competition and this year there was extra fire with a rematch between last year’s winner and runner up.

It was looking to be a repeat showdown between the UK’s ‘chilli queen’ Shahina Waseem, who has been travelling the UK in an attempt to win 50 competitions in a row and break a Guinness World Record, and Abingdon local Anthony Aitken, who narrowly lost in 2017.

The Oxford Times:

Anthony Aitken, far left, eyes up the competition

But the 37-year-old stunned the crowd when he bowed out in fourth place, saying he was still recovering from illness and vowing to triumph when the pair go head-to-head again at next week's Oxford Foodies Festival in South Park.

In the ends it was an all-female final, with Jeanne Marie Ryan, from Jericho, coming in second with an impressive first chilli-eating competition appearance.

She said: "We have a whole spice section in the kitchen at home so I thought I would give it ago.

"The heat was fine, it really didn't bother me but I thought I was going to throw up so decided to save face and call it a day."

The Oxford Times:

Jeanne Marie Ryan and Shahina Waseem

Ms Waseem, who is from West London, praised the Oxford woman, saying: "She was sat next to me and was eating the chillis like a machine. I was getting worried."

She added: "This was my 38th win in a row but I'm never confident I'll win, especially as there is so much expectation now.

"For me the pain is in the moment though and I don't suffer from the digestive issues that affect a lot of the other people who do these competitions."

The fourth annual festival was organised by West Hanney foodie Dawn Hutcheon.

As well as stalls from Age UK and the Wildlife Trust, the festival raised money for Oxfordshire Mind in memory of former chilli competitor Martin Pladdys, who died from a heart attack in 2016.

Ms Hutcheon said: “It was an absolutely brilliant day.

"Abingdon never fails to deliver and I'm already looking forward to next year's festival."