Kobayashi says injury isn't a ploy against rival Chestnut

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Takeru Kobayashi dismissed speculation Friday that his recent jaw ailment could be a ploy against his main
rival at the Nathan's hot dog eating championship next week in New

"That's not even funny," the 29-year-old Japanese eating
machine said. "I don't even have time to think about that."

After his disclosure this week that he has a creaky jaw and he
is getting treatment, some, including ESPN host Tony Kornheiser,
suggested that Kobayashi was trying to lull American Joey Chestnut
into complacency.

Chestnut gained the hot dog record five weeks ago, eating 59 1/2
dogs to Kobayashi's 53 3/4. They are expected to be among the
competitors at the Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating
Contest at Nathan's Famous at New York's Coney Island on Wednesday.
Kobayashi is looking for his seventh consecutive title.

Kobayashi said this week that misaligned wisdom teeth and his
voracious competitive eating career have led to painful arthritis
in his jaw.

In a phone interview using a translator from his New York hotel,
he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he can only open his
mouth to the width of two of his fingers.

"Right now, it's not so good, but I've been talking to
professionals and taking their advice," he said. "They've been
giving me exercises for relaxing the muscles and giving me some
things I can do to relax and heal my jaw."

Kobayashi said he also wants to return to Chattanooga's Krystal
hamburger eating contest in the fall. He is the reigning champion
of the Krystal Square Off competition hosted by the
Chattanooga-based fast-food chain.