Joey Chestnut chows down 5th hot dog contest win

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NEW YORK (AP) - Joey Chestnut scarfed down 62 hot dogs to win his fifth consecutive Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Coney Island _ the equivalent of about 20,000 calories in 10 minutes.

It wasn’t a personal best for the 27-year-old nicknamed Jaws, but it was enough to out-eat second-place finisher Patrick Bertoletti by nine wieners. Chestnut, of San Jose, Calif., won $10,000 and the coveted mustard-yellow belt.

“I feel great!” he said after the contest, adding that he was going to drink a lot of water and avoid hot dogs for a few days.

Chestnut started at a blistering pace but couldn’t beat his own record of 68 “because I kept messing up,” he said, pausing for a burp. “Excuse me,” he told reporters squeezed around him.

Bertoletti, of Chicago, won $5,000, and third-place contestant Tim Janus, of New York, won $2,500.

This year, for the first time, the annual contest in front of Nathan’s Famous fast-food stand was broken into two divisions, one for men and one for women.

Sonya Thomas, known as the “Black Widow” of competitive eating, won with 40 downed dogs, earning her $10,000 and her own pink champion’s belt.

“I’m so happy!” said Thomas, of Alexandria, Va.

She started out neck-and-neck with second-place finisher Juliet Lee but later pulled ahead.

“I looked over, and I said, `No way!’ But I have to focus myself, because I cannot keep up with her now,” Thomas said. Instead, she preserved her biggest jolt of energy for the winning end.

Lee, of Germantown, Md., ate 29 1/2 wieners, and Stephanie Torres, of Las Cruces, N.M., downed 28 1/2.

Both Thomas and Chestnut broke world records in 2009, he with 68 and she with 41.

Chestnut’s chief rival, Takeru Kobayashi, stayed away from the contest this year, staging a separate competition where he ate 69 dogs in 10 minutes _ which would have been a world record.

The slim Japanese champ held the record for hot dog eating from 2001 to 2007. After refusing to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, the fast-food equivalent of the NFL, he was banned from the competition last year.

But he showed up anyway, wearing a T-shirt that said “Free Kobi,” rushed the stage and was arrested. Charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, obstruction of property and trespassing were later dropped.

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