Joey Chestnut chomped his way to his 16th consecutive win at the 2023 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Championship, even after the extravaganza was postponed by two hours due to heavy rainfall and lightning strikes.
Hundreds of frank-fest enthusiasts were ready to relish the annual Independence Day rite at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island on Tuesday afternoon, only to be sent running for cover after a summer storm rolled in.
The dark sky opened up and unleashed a deluge that left spectators soggy and even host George Shea soaked to the bone.
With the NYPD evacuating the area due to lightning concerns, fears arose that the stone-stomached spectacle would be called off completely.
However, Shea told amNewYork Metro that he was determined to put on the show no matter what, even if he had to put it on the Coney Island boardwalk.
“We are doing the contest. It cannot be done right now, but we are doing the contest,” a determined Shea said, as he dripped with water.
Staff scrambled to come up with a solution while the crowds dissipated into the nearby subway station and storefronts in order to take cover from the unrelenting rainfall.
Competitors huddled together as whispers began to indicate that the hot dog eating challenge would be moved inside of the Nathan’s building where the competitors could gouge under the cover of a roof.
These concerns proved to be unfounded though, as two hours after the show was scheduled to air, the storm let up, allowing fan-favorite Chestnut to take the stage in order to defend his title.
Although fans were not permitted in the area due to overarching safety regulations, hundreds still hung around in hopes of catching a glimpse of Chestnut tackle his record of 76 hot dogs and buns.
Despite taking home the championship for a 16th time, the hot dog eating extraordinaire failed to come close to surpassing his record, ending with having only swallowed 62 hot dogs and buns. Chestnut refused to blame the delay and apologized to fans but promised to return with renewed vigor in 2024.
“Aw, man I’m sorry guys. I got the win but nowhere near my record. I started slowing down and it got hard,” Chestnut said. “It’s weird but no good excuses. I didn’t break the record. But I’ll be back next year. I will find a way to do it.”
Before the Independence Day tradition was rained out, Miki Sudo retained her position at the top of the women’s league in a hard-fought victory over Japanese newcomer, a social media influencer, Mayo Ebihara, who came close to pulling off a massive upset.
Sudo took down 39.5 hot dogs and buns while Ebihara conquered 33.
“I don’t feel that great about my performance but physically I feel wonderful,” Sudo said.
Sudo also was surprised by the fierce competition brought on by Tokyo competitor Ebihara, which Sudo said had her glancing to her side throughout the competition.
“We have more serious competition on the women’s side, so I’ll step up my training. Someone is going to bring it; I’ll bring it back. I’m so excited to step it up,” Sudo said, admiring Ebihara’s gumption.