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US reclaims world hotdog scoffing crown

Japanese glutton licked in 66-dog thriller

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US forces in Iraq can today console themselves that if all is not going exactly according to plan in that sun-kissed land astride the Tigris, the Land of the Free has at least reestablished world domination where it really counts - in the sport of stuffing your fat face with hotdogs.

Indeed, in a much-anticipated showdown between reigning champ Takeru Kobayashi of Japan and challenger Joey Chestnut, the latter yesterday snatched victory from the Nipponese jaws of defeat by gorging on 66 hotdogs in 12 minutes, narrowly beating the former by just three tasty processed meat tubes.

In fact, so close was the result that judges at the 92nd annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York's Coney Island were obliged to rely on video playback of the dogfest. The evidence confirmed Kobayashi had ingested a mere 63 hotdogs although, despite apparently talking to his ancestors on the big white telephone at the competition's conclusion - contrary to the strict "no-spewing" rule - he was allowed to retain the consolation runner-up spot.

According to The Times, the battling Californian laureat declared: "I knew going into the contest he was going to give it 100 per cent. I had to come in harder than my body could handle."

Chestnut, 23, and weighing in at 215 pounds, had already pushed hotdog endurance to the limit in a qualifying round when he set a new world record of 59-and-a-half. Having shattered this spectacular total in thrashing Kobayashi (29, 154 pounds), he admitted: "If I needed to eat another one right now, I could."

While America celebrates its stunning victory, Kobayashi has at least the consolation of knowing he came seriously handicapped to the dining table. Event organisers said he'd "had a wisdom tooth extracted last week to relive what they described as 'jaw-thritis'". The deposed six-times champ said: "I'm like a child. I just don't give up." ®

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