Joey Chestnut may have dramatically entered Monday's Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest walking on crutches. But after another stirring performance before the Coney Island crowd, Chestnut had enough fans ready to carry him off the stage he just dominated – once again.
Chestnut's ruptured tendon injury, combined with a series of personal setbacks including the recent loss of his "first coach" mother, Alicia, didn't deter the 38-year-old champion, who devoured 63 hot dogs in 10 minutes Monday at the annual Independence Day event. Despite falling short of his own record of 76 dogs eaten last year, Chestnut put on another clinic to claim the Mustard Belt, out-eating second-place finisher Geoffrey Esper (47½ hot dogs).
Chestnut, who goes by "Jaws," has now won seven in a row and 15 of the last 16 hot dog eating contests since taking down six-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi in 2007, with his only loss in 2015 to Matt Stonie.
In his storied career, Chestnut has now eaten a record 1,152 combined hot dogs. It's become a regularity for Chestnut to not necessarily battle others, but his own world records from previous years' competitions.
Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports prior to his win Monday: "Most athletes have two kinds of primes. Their first prime is when their body is the best. I've passed that prime. The second prime is when their mind and knowledge is at its best, where you know your body and how to practice less but be just as prepared. I'm there now."
'I'm still going for 80': Nearing end of career, hot dog eating champ Joey Chestnut has big goals
In the women's division earlier in the day, Miki Sudo reclaimed her title after taking a year off for pregnancy. The 36-year-old, despite sporting a wrist injury, ate 40 hot dogs and was just short of her own personal-best of 48.5 franks.
A bizarre incident unfolded early on in the men's competition when a protestor rushed the stage to bump into Chestnut, who then responded by putting the protestor in a mini chokehold before security rushed the person off and then Chestnut went back to his eating.
After two years of being moved from its signature location in Brooklyn's Coney Island due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year's contest finally returned to the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues at Nathan’s Famous restaurant in Coney Island. The crowd of thousands was in full force to take in the Independence Day holiday and cheer on the hot dog eaters, with multiple contestants revving up the crowd – a luxury that hadn't been there fully since 2019. The annual hot dog eating contest has still been held – rain or shine – every year since 1916.
Joey Chestnut wins his 1️⃣5️⃣th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating championship 🏆 pic.twitter.com/oyk84XEa0z
— ESPN (@espn) July 4, 2022
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joey Chestnut wins 2022 Hot Dog Eating Contest, devouring 63 franks