NEW YORK: American Joey "Jaws" Chestnut has wolfed down 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes to claim his fourth consecutive world title in one of the planet`s most bizarre sports: competitive eating.
But the New York event was marred Sunday by the arrest of Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi, Chestnut`s arch rival from Japan who had pulled out of the contest but tried to storm the stage and disrupt the victory ceremony.
The crowd chanted Let him eat! Let him eat!" but police slapped handcuffs on Kobayashi.
Chestnut, the 26-year-old reigning champion, left the rest of the competition trailing as he retained the coveted prize, a mustard-yellow prize-fighter`s belt, with room to spare.
Nathan`s Hot Dog Eating Contest is the Super Bowl of competitive eating and the belt, which comes along with a purse of 20,000 dollars, is considered the holy grail.
The event has become so popular in the United States that it is shown live on the cable channel ESPN and thousands turned out in a festival-like atmosphere on Sunday as temperatures soared above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
Chestnut`s face contorted in visible pain as he swallowed his 54th wiener shortly before time was up, giving him a final rate of 5.4 dogs per minute and putting him nine ahead of second-placed Tim Janus.
His stomach-turning -- well short of the 68-dog record he set last year -- came after Kobayashi ruled himself out of the traditional Independence Day event in Coney Island, Brooklyn because of a row with the organizers.
"If he was a real man he would be on the stage," Chestnut said, provoking the Japanese eating prodigy who claimed six successive titles at Coney Island before being trumped by the American in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The New York Police Department later confirmed that 32-year-old Kobayashi had been arrested and charged with resisting arrest, trespassing, and obstructing governmental administration.
"He was taken into custody for disrupting the Nathan`s hot dog eating contest," a spokeswoman told AFP.
Before the event, humorously sponsored by stomach relief drug Pepto-Bismol, Chestnut talked big; he suggested he could break the 70-dog mark which he described as the sport`s equivalent to the four-minute mile in athletics.
But the brutal heat got to competitors as they rammed sausages and buns into their mouths, intermittently sipping from large cups full of water and looking likely to vomit at any moment.
History relates the contest has been going on annually since 1916, when four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest to settle an Independence Day argument about who was the most patriotic. "Hot dog" is a nickname for the workers` or street food made popular by German immigrants, earlier known as the frankfurter (Frankfurt-style sausage).
Another famous American edible export -- the hamburger -- was actually the local twist on German immigrants` Hamburg-style sausage patty.
While funny or disturbing to the casual viewer, for "gurgitators" and their ever-growing fan club, the eating contests are deadly serious with some competitors training for months to get their bodies into shape.
After a weigh-in with New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg, the world`s top eaters arrived at the arena in Brooklyn in the "bus of champions" before being clapped in by lines of screaming fans in a festival-like atmosphere.
The event is supervised by the International Federation of Competitive Eating, Inc. (IFOCE), which organizes other engorgement events such as world hamburger-eating and world jalapeno-eating championships.
Kobayashi still retains various records from other competitions, including eating 57 cow brains in 15 minutes and 41 lobster rolls in 10 minutes.
BDST: 08:35 HRS, July 5, 2010