July 05, 2009

NEW YORK -- Sixty-eight hot dogs. Ten minutes. Zero vomit. Another hot dog eating world record was broken this Fourth of July by the world's leading gurgitator, Joey Chestnut.

The three-time Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating champion out-ate the competition with an engorged stomach, a green face, $20,000 and the coveted Mustard Yellow Belt in hand. Apparently hot dog glory really is worth extreme gastric agony.

Chestnut beat his arch rival Takeru Kobayashi 68 franks to 64. There was no dramatic tie on Coney Island this year, no five hot dog eat-off overtime like there was in 2008. Chestnut took the lead right away. He inhaled dog after dog by using methodic chomps and paced swallows -- three huge bites could throw one back and keep it down. He had the meat sweats. There were chewed chunks of hot dog on his face and white shirt. But he achieved his goal. He beat the 12 minute hot dog eating world record -- 59 - in 10 minutes.

From creative nicknames to gluttonous (but somehow remarkably thin) competitors, circus acts to music acts, the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues was more of a spectacle than any firework display this season. Food groupies lined up in the thousands to see their beloved eating champions compete. Chestnut fans chanted "USA" at Kobayashi supporters until finally the Japanese prodigy fell to the mercy of Chestnut.

Kobayashi didn't have a quick start. He couldn't maintain a steady pace. He couldn't take back Mustard Yellow Belt from Chestnut, but he still beat the world record of 59 hot dogs by devouring and digesting 64, for the most part.

At one point the ex-champ almost suffered a reversal -- eater's slang for throwing up. Fortunately, Kobayashi managed to catch his up-chuck in his hand and shove it back into its rightful place before being disqualified. Vomiting is to professional eating as steroids are to professional baseball; it is just not acceptable.

The Japanese six-time world champion reigned from 2001 until 2006, but was de-throned by Chestnut in 2007. Kobayashi, 31, blames the 2007 loss on a jaw injury he incurred before Nathan's competition. "Jawthritis," however, could not explain Kobayashi's 2009 loss. He defeated Chestnut in the Pizza Hut P-Zone Chow-Lenge in May 2009. Kobayashi could win, but just not on this Fourth of July at Nathan's 94th annual Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti fought an impressive battle, coming in third place with 55 hot dogs eaten. And Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas beat the women's hot dog eating world record by devouring 41 of Nathan's finest.

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