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When one thinks of 4th of July celebrations the things that come to mind are an afternoon feast of watermelon, chips and . . . lots and lots of hot dogs. The best place to eat these tasty franks? The one and only 'Nathan's Famous Fourth Of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest', where participants are handsomely rewarded for devouring as many hot dogs (buns and all) as they can, in the given time.
The fun competition is a Coney Island, New York tradition that dates back to at least 1972 and if some reports are to be believed maybe even 1916. However it was not until 2001, when Japan's Takeru Kobayashi devoured 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes, that it gained international fame. Though Kobayashi, who won the event for six consecutive years until he was dethroned by California rookie Joey Chestnut in 2007, is long gone, the contest which is now streamed live on the ESPN channel, has become a July 4th tradition - one that is watched by millions of people every year.
Similar to other serious 'sporting' events, in order to compete in this hot dog contest, participants first have to qualify by winning one of the many similar competitions sponsored by the Major League Eating (MLE) Association, prior to the grand finale. Among the 16 male competitors that made it through, was New York's Tim Eater X, who once devoured an entire Thanksgiving meal for four that included a 10lb turkey, 4lbs of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, beans and of course pumpkin pie!
Also competing was 22-year-old Matt Stonie from San Jose, California. The youngest member of the Major League eating competition came to his inaugural hot dog eating contest with several records under his belt, including one for eating a 5.5lbs birthday cake in less than 9 minutes and another for devouring 10.5lbs of frozen yogurt in 6 minutes!
However, none of them were a match for Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, who has dominated this competition for the last seven years. The 6-foot tall competitive eater who is currently ranked first in the world by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, demolished 61 franks in the allotted ten minutes. While that was good enough to take home the official mustard-yellow winner's belt and total prize purse of $40,000 USD, it fell short of the 69 hot dogs and buns the 30-year-old had managed to devour in 2013.
Joey, who had hoped to surpass his previous record, later admitted that he had been unable to get into his normal (eating) rhythm! Though he could not pinpoint the cause we have a feeling that it may have had something to do with the fact that his longtime girlfriend and competitive eater, Nesile Ricasa, had agreed to marry him on national television, just minutes before the competition.
Three-time defending women's champion Sonya 'Black Widow' Thomas did not fare as well. She was defeated by Miki Sudo from Las Vegas, who inhaled 34 frankfurters, far outpacing Sonya's 27 3/4!