Hot-Dog-Eating Champ Out With Strained Jaw

5-year wiener reign could end July 4
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 29, 2007 5:22 AM CDT
dogs in 12 minutes. Others suggest it's a dodge to avoid Chestnut. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Will the 4th of July ever be the same? For 5 years, the day has belonged to Takeru Kobayashi, the unstoppable winner of Nathan's annual hot dog eating contest. But the chow champ—a Japanese professional eater nicknamed "tsnuami" for his technique—is in a pickle. He can barely open his mouth due to an arthritic jaw.

Fans are wondering whether the arrival of up-and-eater Joey Chestnut, a California boy who devoured Kobayashi's world record this month by swallowing 59.5 dogs in 12 minutes, could be scaring the champ out of competition. His absence would be "a strange coincidence, now that he's the underdog," sneered Chestnut. (Read more Takeru Kobayashi stories.)