As America celebrates its 244th birthday amidst some of the most unusual circumstances in American history, many traditions, such as fireworks and family barbecues, will be forsaken. But in an enduring celebration of one of the country’s favorite foods, Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest was held on Saturday, and two familiar champions were crowned — Joey “Jaws” Chestnut and Miki Sudo.
The annual televised contest, typically done in front of boisterous crowds at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues near Nathan’s flagship shop on Coney Island, had to adapt to the new Covid-19 environment. As a result, the competition was televised on ESPN from a private location, and the number competitors in each contest was reduced from fifteen to five to comply with social distance requirements.
But despite the change in scenery, the contest remained the same – pitting well-known professional eaters against one another in a race to see who can eat the greatest number of hot dogs and buns within a ten-minute period. The winners received $10,000 dollars and prize money and the illustrious possession of the contest’s mustard title belt.
Sudo and Chestnut continued their string of impressive victories. Sudo dominated the women’s competition, eating a new world record 48.5 hot dogs and beating her closet competitor, Larell Marie Mele of Long Pond, PA by a 32.5 hot dog margin. Today’s victory makes it Sudo’s seventh straight victory and continues to cement her legendary status at the top women on the Major League Eating rankings.
In response to a question of how she felt after her record breaking victory, Sudo was blunt. “I feel great.” the champion said. “I’m sure the physical effects will kick in in a little bit…”
Chestnut, similarly, extended his legendary string of successes in the Hot Dog eating contest, winning his fifth straight contest and his 13th victory in his last 14 attempts. The 36-year old Kentucky native and current resident of San Jose, California, similarly dominated his competitions, swallowing 75 hot dogs and beating his closest competitor Darron Breedon, by a 33 hot dog margin. In doing so, he broke his own 74 hot dog record. and o exceeded 1,000 Nathan’s Famous competition eaten hot dogs.
In doing so, Chestnut once again proved why he is ranked number one on the Major League Eating Table. Chestnut’s most recent victory adds to his impressive collection of wins in other food competitions, as well as his long list of. 46 of world food eating records (which itself is a world record). Chestnut holds such notable eating records as number of chicken wings in 30 minutes (182), glazed donuts in 8 minutes (55), ice cream sandwiches in 6 minutes (25.5) and poutine in 10 minutes (28 pounds). He even holds a record for eating deep fried asparagus – 12 pounds, 8.75 ounces – an achievement Chestnut notched in 2014 at the Stockton Asparagus Festival.
Asked what contributed to his victory, Chestnut was circumspect. “The dogs were cooked really good today,” Chestnut said. “And being inside helped.”
Like many other events across America that are changing their format as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, hosts of professional eating contests are being impacted. Usually hosted at festivals in front of large crowds, the highly transmittable virus may make future contests, such as the upcoming U.S. National Buffalo Wing Eating Championship in September, difficult to host.
But as the telecast of the Nathan’s Hot Dog competition showed on Saturday, our sports-starved nation is still willing to tune in and cheer competitors in a seldom-seen sport that demonstrates the both the resolve, and the stomach capacity, of its competitors. And on a day when Americans celebrate the patriots who helped liberate our nation, both Miki Sudo and Joey Chestnut proved that when Americans put their mind to something, they can get the job done by swallowing whatever it takes to win.
Even hot dogs.