By Gabriella Borter
NEWYORK (Reuters) – This year’s Nathan’s Famous hot-dog eating contest proved a mild disappointment to Joey Chestnut, the Fourth of July event’s perennial champ, even though he handily won the annual display of gastronomical excess for the 12th time this year.
Chestnut took the crown in the annual U.S. Independence Day competition by downing 71 dogs and buns in 10 minutes. But the 35-year-old “competitive eater” from San Jose, California fell short of his record-setting performance of 74 at last year’s contest, staged for decades on the beachfront in New York City’s Coney Island.
“I came out fast and then I slowed down faster than I would have liked,” Chestnut said after the contest. “I tried to adjust, I tried to chew more, make it easier for my throat to swallow, but I was just slowing down.”
Thousands of holiday makers crowded around the eating stage set up along the boardwalk in the Brooklyn neighbourhood to witness Chestnut and a handful of other eaters choke down dozens of hot dogs and buns in a voracious 10-minute eating frenzy.
Chestnut told ESPN he had eaten 75 dogs in practice, but could not repeat the performance for this year’s July 4th competition.
He holds eating records in several food categories, including two 2013 records of eating 141 hard boiled eggs in eight minutes and 121 Twinkies in six minutes.
The favourite on the women’s side, Miki Sudo from Tucson, Arizona, also came out on top on Thursday, claiming her 6th Nathan’s title with 31 hot dogs.
The competition is partly a marketing event and partly a tribute to Americans’ love of hot dogs, a staple on barbecue grills on the U.S. Independence Day holiday.
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates that Americans consume 20 billion hot dogs each year, and about 150 million on the Fourth of July alone.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty)