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Originally published July 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 5, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Chestnut shows he's the world's top dog

In a gut-busting showdown that combined drama, daring and indigestion, Joey Chestnut emerged Wednesday as the world's hot-dog-eating champion...

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — In a gut-busting showdown that combined drama, daring and indigestion, Joey Chestnut emerged Wednesday as the world's hot-dog-eating champion, knocking off six-time winner Takeru Kobayashi in a record-setting yet repulsive triumph.

Chestnut, 23, the great red, white and blue hope in the annual Nathan's Famous International July Fourth Hot Dog Eating Contest, broke his own world record by inhaling 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes, one every 10.9 seconds before a screaming crowd at Coney Island. Police said up to 50,000 spectators were on hand for the event.

"If I needed to eat another one right now, I could," the champion chomper from San Jose, Calif., who weighed in at 215 pounds, said after receiving the mustard-yellow belt emblematic of hot-dog-eating supremacy.

Chestnut also won $10,000, with $5,000, $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000 awarded to the rest of the top five hot-dog eaters.

Kobayashi, 29, the Japanese eating machine, recently had a wisdom tooth extracted and received chiropractic treatment because of a sore jaw.

But the winner of every Nathan's hot-dog competition from 2001 to 2006 showed no ill effects as he stayed with Chestnut frank for frank until the very end of the 12-minute competition.

Once the contest ended, the runner-up suffered a reversal — competitive eating-speak for barfing — leading to a deduction from his final total. Kobayashi finished with 63 HDBs (hot dogs and buns eaten) in his best performance.

Competitors receive credit for anything in their mouths at the 12-minute mark, provided they can swallow it.

"Obviously, the last bit exited his mouth quite dramatically," said Rich Shea, of the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

Kobayashi's gastric distress was the only sour note in the tube-steak tussle, broadcast nationally on ESPN.

Contestants tend to dunk the bread in water to make swallowing easier and eschew condiments such as ketchup or mustard.

Kobayashi, who weighed in at 154 pounds, said through an interpreter that all the eaters were getting better every year. "I lost but this was the most fun I had," he said. "I didn't feel pain but my jaw wasn't moving part way through," he said of his injury.

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Kobayashi's previous best was 53 ½ in the competition that dates back to 1916. The record before Wednesday was Chestnut's 59 ½, set in June in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe.

The two gastric gladiators quickly distanced themselves from the rest of the 17 competitors, including two women, processing more meat than a slaughterhouse within the first few minutes. The two had each downed 60 hot dogs with 60 seconds to go when Chestnut put away the final franks to end Kobayashi's reign.

Kobayashi promised to return for the 2008 event.

Chestnut's victory ended Japan's long dominance of the contest. The only previous non-Japanese winner since 1996 was New Jersey's Steve Keiner in 1999. Third place this year went to another American, Patrick Bertoletti, of Chicago, with 49.

"This title's been held by Kobayashi for six years, so it's about time it came home," said Chestnut, holding an American flag in his arms.

"I knew going into this contest that Kobayashi was going to give 100 percent."

Chestnut said he probably won't eat a regular meal until tonight.

But normalcy will be short-lived. Next week, he's heading back to New York, where Pizza Hut is hosting an eating competition. Chestnut plans to be there.

New York Daily News, San Jose Mercury News and Reuters material is included in this report.

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