Chestnut wins 6th straight title, downs 68 dogs

NEW YORK (AP) — Joey Chestnut ate his way to a sixth straight win at the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island on Wednesday, downing 68 to tie his personal best in a sweaty, gag-inducing spectacle.

Last year, the 28-year-old San Jose, Calif., man nicknamed “Jaws” won with 62 hot dogs. He bested his main rival this year by 16 dogs, scarfing down all 68 in 10 minutes in the sweltering summer heat to take home $10,000 and the mustard yellow belt.

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Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas accepts her trophy Wednesday after she wins Nathan’s Famous Women’s Hot Dog Eating World Championship at Coney Island, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

“I feel good, it was a great win,” Chestnut said after the contest, adding he wished he could have eaten a record number of hot dogs for the audience. “I tried my best. I’m looking forward to next year already.”

Second place went to Tim Janus of New York with 52 hot dogs, who received $5,000. Third place went to Patrick Bertoletti of Chicago with 51, who won $2,500.

Chestnut was neck-and-neck with competitors during the first half of the contest, but he pulled ahead in the remaining minutes, choking down dog after dog, while other competitors slowed as the clock wound down.

“I’m happy to come out with the win,” he said.

Sonya Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., downed 45 wieners to win the women’s competition. She reached her goal of eating 45 in the time limit — her age — and took home her own pink champion’s belt and $10,000.

Thomas, known as the “Black Widow” of competitive eating, won last year as well, the first time a separate contest was held for women. Juliet Lee, of Germantown, Md., took second place with 33 and won $5,000. Lee also won second place last year. Third place went to Michelle Lesco, of Tuscon, Ariz., who received $2,500 for downing 251⁄2.

Thomas said she started to feel sick while eating but kept pushing so she could win the title.

“There is a limit so I have to fight,” she said.

Thomas said next year she’s going to beat her record again and eat 46.

“Because I’m going to be 46 next year,” she said.

The Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest has been a city tradition for 97 years. Tens of thousands of spectators gather to gawk as contestants shimmy, slither and bounce as they dip hot dogs in water and cram them down their throats.

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