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Best of the wurst: Kobayashi eats 58 brats for win

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Takeru Kobayashi grinded through a record
58 brats at the Johnsonville World Bratwurst Eating Championship on
Saturday, easily winning another tasty title and slicing through
the record of 34½ set last year by Sonya Thomas.

"They're good," Kobayashi said through translator Robert
Ikeda. "I want to take some home."

Kobayashi earned $8,000 for his effort. There was no extra
charge for the 16,820 calories, 1,450 grams of fat and 19 days
worth of the recommended amount of sodium he consumed in front of a
crowd of some 3,500 people attending Sheboygan Jaycees Brat Days.

The 160-pound Kobayashi, of Nagano, Japan, is a seasoned veteran
at 27 and by far the world's best competitive eater. But he
narrowly beat 22-year-old Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., in
this year's Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest on the Fourth of July
in New York.

At Saturday's Showdown in Sheboygan, competitors had 10 minutes
to eat as many brats as possible with no buns. The Fourth of July
contest is 12 minutes and competitors must eat the buns.

"Brats are a little bit harder to eat," Kobayashi said. "With
hot dogs, it's more volume. You're actually dipping the buns in
water."

Chestnut finished a distant second with 45 brats and said his
performance couldn't have been wurst.

"I wasn't able to prepare for this contest like the Fourth of
July," Chestnut said. "I know I could have done better -- that's
what hurts the most."

Patrick Bertoletti finished third with 39, Bob Shoudt had 38½
and Tim Janus finished with 37. Thomas couldn't even match her
record of last year, with just 34 brats.

The pace was quick early -- Kobayashi ate 23 in 3 minutes,
compared to Chestnut's 21. At the 4:57 mark, Kobayashi passed the
previous record. He hit 50 brats with 1:40 to go while Chestnut
lagged behind with 41.

Thomas said the pace affected her.

"Eaters were five ahead of me [early] and I was like, 'gosh,' "
she said. "Maybe that's why I slowed down."

After the end of the contest, Kobayashi flexed his arm and
pulled up his shirt to reveal his brat-filled stomach.

He said he was going for 50, and plans to come back next year to
break another barrier.

"I want to do 60," he said.

Bertoletti said he fared surprisingly well by using a secret,
shunned weapon -- ketchup.

"I'm kind of ashamed because you're not supposed to eat brats
with ketchup," he said. "I tried to hide it so no one could
see."

But the spectacle celebrating overindulgence was equaled by the
colorful crowd.

Fans held up signs in both English and Japanese in honor of
Kobayashi. One sign read: "Eat Sausage and Puke? Never."

Jake Virant, 19, of Sheboygan, was at the competition to see
Janus and had his face painted like him but was also wearing a
colored styrofoam brat as a hat, reminiscent of the Cheeseheads
that invade at Lambeau Field for every Green Bay Packers game.

"It looks like a lot of fun," Virant said.

Janus, a day trader in New York with ambitions of owning a
pizzeria, said he never expected to have fans. He said he got into
the gluttonous sport because he wanted to spice up his days off.

"I like food, the flavor and I have a high tolerance for
pain," he said.

Jordy Maass, of Sheboygan, said he wanted to join the amateur
contest but got there too late so he had to settle to "watch how
poorly these guys do." Nathan Jackson, of Sheboygan, won that
contest with 17 brats in 10 minutes.

Maass' main reason to show up? Kobayashi.

"He's amazing," he said.

George Shea, chairman of the International Federation of
Competitive Eating, said that he sees the future of competitive
eating developing like an extreme sport.

"The crowd loves it," he said. "What they see, it's not what
they expect."