NEW YORK (Reuters) - An American competitive eater devoured a record 66 hotdogs in 12 minutes on Wednesday to win the July 4 annual Coney Island hotdog eating competition, defeating a six-time champion from Japan in a photo finish.
Defending champion Takeru Kobayashi, a 28-year-old from Japan who weighed in at 170 pounds, went into the competition with a jaw injury but still managed to down 63 hotdogs.
But the winner of the “Mustard Belt” prize for the most hotdogs eaten was 23-year-old Joey Chestnut from San Jose, California, who weighed in at 225 pounds.
Chestnut fulfilled his vow to beat the world record he set in qualifying earlier this year of 59 1/2 dogs, and to bring back the prize to America on Independence Day.
The two were neck and neck in the final minute until Kobayashi appeared to suffer what the commentator on sports TV channel ESPN euphemistically called a “reversal.”
Judges reviewed the debris of plates and scraps and declared Chestnut the winner with 66. The third place eater trailed way behind with 49.
“For the past six years Kobayashi has dominated. In year seven he just couldn’t cut it,” Chestnut told Reuters. “It just feels awesome. For a long time the belt has been going away to Japan but this year it’s staying here.”
Competitive eating is a popular pastime in America, particularly at holidays.
The hotdog eating event is the highlight of July 4 Independence Day celebrations at Coney Island beach in New York. Eaters tend to dunk the bread in water to make swallowing easier and eschew condiments such as ketchup or mustard.
Kobayashi, who was competing despite a jaw injury, said all the eaters were getting better every year. “I lost but this was the most fun I had,” he said.
“I didn’t feel pain but my jaw wasn’t moving part way through,” he said of his injury.
Police said as many as 50,000 spectators watched the event, which drew 17 competitors, including two women.
The United States has the highest prevalence of obesity among developed countries, at about one-third of the adult population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 60 million adults are obese.