Surrounded by soggy crumbs, empty yellow cups and the cheers of approximately 35,000 people, Joey Chestnut and Miki Sudo bit off the most they could chew at Thursday’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Chestnut won his 12th Nathan’s contest with 71 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes, falling just four franks shy of besting his own record of 74 hot dogs in 2018. Sudo, 32, ate 31 in 10 minutes, defeating Michelle Lesco, who finished second with 26.
Both champions take home the Mustard belt and $20,000 each.
Chestnut said Thursday’s heat hurt his quest to set a new world record — it was a stifling 84 degrees and clear during the competition.
"I was trying to break the record, but the heat got in my way a little bit," he told reporters. "About five minutes in I slowed down way more than I would have liked."
Now that the feast of franks is over, he plans to drink lots of water and go to sleep.
In the men’s competition, Chestnut was followed by newcomer Darron Breeden, 30, with 50 hot dogs and buns, Geoffrey Esper with 47 dogs, and Matt Stonie with 46. A total of 18 men and 15 women competed.
Trip Brown, 24, traveled from Houston, to see the contest, a journey that he wanted to take for years. And he was not disappointed.
"It was incredible. This trip was a long time coming. We’ve been watching for years," he said. "[Joey Chestnut] is the greatest athlete of our generation. He’s an American hero."
Jay McClure, 20, of Manhattan was disappointed Chestnut didn’t break his 74-dog record but enjoyed the contest nonetheless.
"It was nasty watching him go," he said. "Seventy-one in 10 minutes, I couldn’t do that even if you gave me the whole day."
In between the women’s competition at 11 a.m. and the men’s at 12:30 p.m., the crowd heard original rap from Eric "Badlands" Booker, a former competitor of 20 years at Coney Island, and saw performances by various local groups and the Nathan’s Bunnettes cheerleaders.
Joseph Griffo, 44, from Hoboken, New Jersey, attends the contest every year. "It’s an amazing spectacle. Last year, Joey Chestnut ate 74 hot dogs and buns and it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen," he said.
As per tradition, Nathan’s Famous will donate 100,000 hot dogs to the Food Bank for New York City.