World hot dog eating champion Joey Chestnut grappled with a protester Monday while chomping down on tube steaks in Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island.
Chunks of meat and breadcrumbs sprayed in every direction as professional eaters scoffed down hot dogs and buns in an attempt to become champion at the corner of Surf and Stilwell Avenues. However, food wasn’t the only thing the sausage-eating superhero nicknamed “Jaws” took down.
Chestnut was shoved aside from his plate in front of over one thousand fans by a Darth Vader mask-wearing, sign-touting, animal rights protester. The hot dog gorger didn’t take the impediment lying down.
With a fistful of franks in one hand, Chestnut caught the demonstrator in a chokehold before shoving him to the ground. Without missing a beat, the reigning champion went right back to guzzling frankfurters in a quest to beat his world record.
Two of the show-stealing protesters were led away in handcuffs while the contest concluded. Although Chestnut was unable to best his world record, he still managed to swallow 63 of Nathan’s Hot dogs for the win.
“I’m not full! I was exhausted during the contest. I got a little bit winded. I slowed down, I started off really fast, but I got winded, and I need to make sure I come back in better shape next year so I can make a run on the record,” Chestnut admitted.
“I can’t really blame him [the protester] for too much. It was really quick,” Chestnut said, clarifying that exhaustion was the root cause for not beating last year’s score of 76 hot dogs.
At 17 hot dogs, Chestnut was surprised when a protester brandished a sign reading, “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar,” which referenced alleged animal abuse at a pig farm in Virginia by animal rights activist’s documentary “Operation Deathstar.”
Nathan’s hot dogs, however, are all-beef.
amNewYork Metro inquired if it was instinct to toss the protester, but Chestnut simply stated that he does not remember.
“I thought somebody fell into me. I was just confused. I don’t remember, I don’t know what I was thinking,” he said.
In addition to the sweltering heat, Chestnut also played through pain, having ruptured a right leg tendon prior to the contest.
“I’ve had a broken leg all year, so it prevented me from doing any working out or cardio, so I think that’s the reason why I got winded during the contest,” Chestnut said.
Female champion Miki Sudo regained her title after relinquishing it the year prior due to a maternity leave. Sudo dominated the competition by chomping down on a whopping 40 hot dogs and buns, knocking off previous champ Michelle Lesco who came in second place.
Sudo shared that eating hot dogs competitively has brought so much meaning to her life. It’s where she met her husband, traveled to compete, and has now returned with her newborn son as champion.
“I never thought that competitive eating could bring so much to my life and it’s great to be back,” Sudo said. “I feel like the belt has come back where it belongs. I was really hoping to see Michelle put up bigger numbers after she tasted victory, but she put up a good fight.”
The afternoon was also notable for marking the event’s return to the street outside Nathan’s Hot Dogs on Surf and Stillwell Avenues following two years of switched up venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Major League Eating archives, “the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Championship has taken place on July 4th in Coney Island since 1916, the year Nathan Handwerker opened the restaurant.”
This year’s contest welcomed 16 male and 12 female competitors from around the world.