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For Hot Dog King, Just No Contest

July 05, 2001|From Times Wire Services

NEW YORK — A man inhaled a record 50 hot dogs in just 12 minutes Wednesday to destroy his stunned competition in the annual Nathan's frankfurter-eating contest at Coney Island.

Takeru Kobayashi of Japan, in his first-ever attempt at the contest, left competitors with their jaws agape as he knocked back more than four dozen franks with obvious relish.

The 5-foot-7, 131-pound Kobayashi surpassed the old record of 25 in just 5 minutes, 13 seconds. Kobayashi didn't stop until he had doubled that number, complete with the buns.

Eyewitnesses said it was by far the most amazing performance since the annual Fourth of July contest began in 1916.

"I have never seen anything like this before," said Tom Maher, a spokesman for the Nathan's-sponsored International Federation of Competitive Eating. "He has truly redefined the sport."

Kobayashi, 23, employed a technique dubbed "the Solomon method"--snapping the hot dogs in half, then shoving both pieces into his mouth. By the end of the 12-minute event, the rest of the 19-member field had stopped eating to watch Kobayashi.

He did a little dance as he chewed, and he just kept on going. "I need to find a rhythm when I am eating and the dancing helps me to keep the beat," said Kobayashi, who said he never tries to impress dates with his prodigious consumption skills.

The runner-up was last year's winner, Kazutoyo Arai of Japan, who knocked down 31 hot dogs. Arai had set the record of 25 during last year's contest.

Charles Hardy of Brooklyn came in third with 23.

World haggis-eating champion Barry Noble, who has set marks for downing the Scottish dish that consists of baked animal innards, said in all of his years of competitive eating he has never seen anything like Kobayashi.

"What he did was not real," Noble said. "It was frightening."

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