At the Fourth of July Nathan’s International Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island, N.Y., Joey Chestnut scarfed down 68 hot dogs to win the 2012 title. But across town, his competitive eating rival, Takeru Kobayashi, ate 68.5 hot dogs at the Crif Dog Classic.
Kobayashi was, by all accounts, the competitive eating world’s superstar for years, winning the Nathan’s title from 2001 to 2006. In his first year of competition, he ate twice as many hot dogs as his closest competitor. Indeed, when competitive eating went mainstream thanks to ESPN in 2004, it was the slight Japanese wonder who captured the world’s imagination. How could such a small man eat so many hot dogs?
Kobayashi is widely credited with popularizing the “sport,” turning the annual hot dog-eating contest into a must-watch Fourth of July event.
A contract dispute, however, forced Kobayashi out of the Nathan’s competition two years ago. Essentially, the Nagano, Japan, native refused to go along with Major League Eating’s restrictive limits on endorsements and remuneration.