A world record-breaking eater ended the six-year reign of a Japanese champion Wednesday, gobbling a whopping 66 weiners in a mere 12 minutes in the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating contest.
American Joey Chestnut ended Japan's Takeru 'Tsunami' Kobayshi's remarkable streak to the cheers of a crowd of 50,000, according to police estimates.
Only Tuesday, Kobayashi was considering dropping out of the event after arthritis of the jaw and a pulled wisdom tooth left him in pain.
He rallied to try to defend his title, but came up short, shoveling in a still-remarkable 63 dogs with their buns in the stipulated 12 minutes.
In the final stretch, Kobayashi managed to pull abreast of Chestnut when a sudden urge to vomit forced him to block his mouth with his hands and settle for second place -- disqualification follows if vomit spills out of the mouth. Chestnut, a 23-year-old student from California, won the mustard-yellow championship belt and a prize of 10,000 dollars, but above all he basked in the glory of having beaten 16 rivals and broken Kobayashi's seemingly endless run.
The 70-kilo (154-pound) Kobayashi had caused a sensation by winning the contest six years in a row; last year by eating a 53-3/4 hot dogs and breaking his own record.
Chestnut, at 97 kilos (215 pounds) came second in 2006 with 52 hot dogs, but this year felt confident about the competition after breaking Kobayashi's world record in June with 59-1/2 wieners.
Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Competition has been held every year at Coney Island since 1916 and is considered the blue ribbon event of the increasingly popular and lucrative competitive eating calendar.
Most participants now use the 'Solomon technique' patented by Kobayashi, breaking the wieners in half before wolfing them down. The buns are eaten separately after being dunked in water to make them easier to swallow.
The only real rule is to avoid regurgitation -- or 'reversal of fortune' as it is quaintly termed -- which would result in immediate disqualification.
Hot dog eating champions are not, as might be expected, huge and obese, since experts note that an excess of fatty tissue restricts the stomach's capacity for expansion.
Nathan's hot dog eating contest is broadcast on television on the July 4 holiday, a day Americans on average put away 150 million wieners across the country.
For an average summer season, Americans consume about seven billion hot dogs, or 818 wieners per second.