NEW YORK -- Joey Chestnut hoisted the Mustard Belt for the fifth straight time Monday while chants of "Joey, Joey" ascended from the crowd and Chestnut reigned once again as Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest champion.
Chestnut downed 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes at the July 4th annual event held at the famous Coney Island in Brooklyn. Patrick Bertoletti, of Chicago, Ill., hung tight early but finished second with 53 hot dogs and hometown eater Timothy "Eater X" Janus, last year's runner-up, was third after consuming 43.
Former six-time champ Takeru Kobayashi, instead of crashing the stage the way he did last year, ate simultaneously at a midtown bar while the contest in Brooklyn aired on ESPN. A Wall Street Journal report said Kobayashi claims he scarfed down 69 dogs. The mark, if recognized, would beat Chestnut's world record of 68 set in 2009. Kobayashi was ineligible to compete because he won't sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, the fast-food equivalent of the NFL.
"It wasn't a competition," Chestnut said. "It was him just eating. I've done 71 in practice by myself. It's his choice not to be here. He could have signed the same contract he signed three years (ago). It's sad that he thinks he's Kobe Bryant. This is competitive eating. It's supposed to be fun."
Chestnut earned $10,000 for the win and led from the beginning and had gobbled 38 dogs in the first five minutes, at which point Bertoletti, the second-ranked competitive eater in the world, only trailed by two.
"That guy was not giving up," Chestnut said. "He was making a furious mess too. I kept on getting hit by red debris. Next year I might get pushed in harder next year."
A women's contest was held separately for the first time this year and Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas took home her own Mustard Belt, except her belt was pink. For years, the Korean-born Thomas, who resides in Alexandria, Va., had competed with the men and has the top fifth consumption marks all-time. She finished one hot dog off her own record, stuffing down 40.
"I'm thirsty, but I'm happy," she said. "This year they have a women's division so I have a champion's belt. But I competed with the men and I didn't have a chance to get a belt. Now I have a chance to get a pink belt so I'm very happy about that."
Even more important than the belt was a chance for separate prize money. The total purse in both men's and women's divisions equaled 20,000.
Thomas trailed briefly in the first two minutes behind Juliet Lee, who inhaled 29.5 hot dogs and buns for second-place.
Christopher Hunt is a special contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.