Gluttony returned to Surf and Stillwell Avenues in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York this Independence Day. The greatest activity in American athleticism, the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest was held once again on the boardwalk, as competitive eaters vied for the Mustard Belt.
This year was special, as the event returned to full view before the People, in the shadow of the Cyclone, not over at Maimonides Park like last year or in a sullen indoor location during the early dog days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Also adding to the drama, was the sight of Joey “Jaws” Chestnut appearing at his weigh-in on crutches due to a ruptured tendon. The Babe Ruth-Michael Jordan–Wayne Gretzky–Tiger Woods of competitive eating, Chestnut is the 14-time champion of this esteemed event, whose gastrointestinal tract is surely plated in platinum.
The Las Vegas odds were at -3000 for Chestnut (in other words, bet $3000 to win $100) even with him forced to compete wearing a boot. (Whether or not this injury was due to swift consumption of comestibles in a competitive setting remains unknown.)
But before the gents chowed down, the ladies took to the platform. Miki Sudo, following a hiatus (not hiatal) year off due to pregnancy, bested the competition, swallowing 40 franks and buns. In second place was her friend and former roommate (what was that like?) Michelle Lesco with a mere 26 dogs. This is her eighth win in nine years for the New York-born champion. (Other accomplishments include the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival World Pie Eating Championship, the World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail-Eating Championship, and the West Virginia Three Rivers Festival Pepperoni Roll Eating World Championship.)
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Chestnut, who got his start on “the asparagus circuit” according to ESPN’s commentators, was a little slower out of the gate compared to usual, perhaps due to his injury. The 15 brave competitive tube steak warriors dunked their dogs-and-buns in cups of water for 10 full minutes, avoiding “reversals of fortune” in the hot July sun.
Chestnut consumed 63 dogs, far lower than his personal best of 76, beating out the number two, Geoffrey Esper, by 20. For a brief moment a protestor in a Darth Vader mask threatened to disrupt the event, but Chestnut, mid-munch, got the guy in a chokehold before security dragged him away.
What no one dares to ask a champion like Chestnut is, what will happen to him 12 to 24 hours from now.
Happy 4th of July, everyone!