NEW YORK — Joey Chestnut downed 69 franks and devoured his own record in the men’s Fourth of July hot dog eating contest while Sonya Thomas defended her title in the women’s competition.
The San Jose, Calif., man known as Jaws ate one more wiener than his previous record to capture the mustard-yellow champion’s belt. He said afterward that he was motivated by the prestige, not the $10,000 prize money.
“I’d do this for nothing,” he said.
Thomas, a 100-pound dynamo known as the “Black Widow” of competitive eating, wolfed down nearly 37 wieners to narrowly eke out her own victory.
Chestnut, 29, is a seven-time winner who set the old record – 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes – in 2009 and tied it last year. Thomas, 45, powered through 45 dogs to take the women’s championship last year and also won in 2011, the first year women competed separately
Chestnut, who weighs 210 pounds, had said his pace was uneven in the past, but “this year I’m trying to eat a little more gracefully, conserve my energy.”
Second-place finisher was Matt Stonie, who chomped down 51 hot dogs.
With this year’s victory, Chestnut has now bested his former rival, Takeru Kobayashi, who won six times. Kobayashi competed in a different eating contest on Thursday.
Thomas went toe-to-toe with Juliet Lee for the $5,000 women’s prize. Thomas finished with 36 and three-quarters dogs; Lee ate 36 wieners.
Thomas said the challenge of shoveling down dozens of franks is actually “more mental than physical.”
“I have to fight with myself, so I’m going to try to really focus,” said Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., where she manages a fast-food restaurant.
Now in its 98th year, the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest draws crowds of thousands to marvel at contestants cramming frankfurters down their throats.
Ginger Perry, 47, of Obion County, Tenn., said she and her family planned their New York City vacation around the contest after watching it on TV in past years.
Perry was impressed that Coney Island has recovered so well from being slammed by Superstorm Sandy last October. “It’s amazing to be here and that they rebuilt so quickly,” she said.
The hot dog contest took place despite concerns about a swaying, shuttered observation tower that spurred the closure of parts of the nearby amusement park. The shutdown didn’t affect Nathan’s, but Coney Island’s famous Cyclone roller coaster and other rides were closed, and workers were using a crane to dismantle the tower.