The annual Independence Day Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has largely been a one-man show for nearly a decade, as Joey Chestnut has been unstoppable. And after his recent breakup, Chestnut is a refocused champion that may devour this year’s competition.
Chestnut has won the men’s side of the contest for the last eight years, taking over as the unbeatable champion after defeating Takeru Kobayashi in 2006 and ending his six-year run. He proposed to his girlfriend, Neslie Ricasa, immediately after winning last year’s event, but a few months ago they called off their engagement. Chestnut said the breakup gave him “more reason to focus on this competition.”
Chestnut’s life involves trying to stick to a crazy schedule, make public appearances, and do a lot of travel, so when asked why his relationship dissolved, he said it was inevitable.
“I definitely would say it was traveling. I was gone quite a bit. It was mutual. It just didn’t work.”
When asked how the breakup might affect his chances at this year’s contest, especially considering it is at the site of where he proposed only one year ago, he’s trying to keep a healthy, positive outlook on the future.
“Competitive eating is something I can control. I know I can control and if I push hard I can win. I thought it would be bittersweet. I’m not going to let it hurt me. Last year, the whole engagement affected me. This year I will definitely have less distractions.”
Chestnut is looking to secure his ninth victory in a row. Chestnut ate 61 hot dogs in 10 minutes to win last year’s hot dog eating contest, and he holds the record for the most dogs eaten, devouring 69 in 2013. Though time limits have changed over the years for the Nathan’s event, the rate at which hot dogs are getting eaten in this competition seems to be increasing. Time Magazine put together a graphic displaying how many hot dogs have been eaten by the Nathan’s champion over the years. The original winner in 1972, Jason Schechter, ate 14 hot dogs. Kobayashi averaged 50 hot dogs eaten per victory during his six-year run. Since Chestnut took over as hot dog eating champion, he has averaged 63.
The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest takes place every 4th of July on Coney Island. The field consists of about 20 contestants, including the previous year’s winner, as well as winners of various qualifying rounds throughout the year and special invitees. This year’s event can be watched live online beginning at noon Eastern time on July 4.
[Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images]