NEW YORK – A 160-pound wonder from Japan set a new record by devouring a sickening 53¾ frankfurters in 12 minutes to win the annual Independence Day hot dog eating competition on Coney Island.

The feat earned Takeru Kobayashi, 27, his sixth straight title in the event, held at the original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand on Brooklyn’s seashore.

He broke his own record of 53½ hot dogs, set at the same competition two years ago.

Kobayashi’s nauseating triumph was witnessed by thousands of raucous, sweaty spectators who jammed the sweltering streets near the competition site, a block from the famed Coney Island boardwalk.

Seasoned fans were on hand to see whether anyone could unseat Kobayashi – a top-ranked eater who once consumed 17.7 pounds of pan-seared cow brains to win $25,000.

Top American

His strongest competition was Joey Chestnut, a 220-pound civil engineering student from San Jose, Calif., who set an American record by eating 50 hot dogs during a qualifying tournament in Las Vegas.

Chestnut jumped out to an early lead in the competition, sometimes jamming franks into his mouth with two hands as the crowd roared.

But as Chestnut struggled, red-faced, with veins bulging in his forehead, the Japanese star methodically chomped dog after dog, often dipping them in a beverage before cramming them into his mouth. Kobayashi passed Chestnut for good with about three minutes left in the contest.

When the clock expired, Chestnut had swallowed 52 Nathan’s franks – not quite enough.

“I hit a wall. I just felt tired,” Chestnut told an interviewer from ESPN, which broadcast the competition live.

Kobayashi, his hair dyed yellow like a Nathan’s billboard, said through a translator that he would be back next year to eat even more hot dogs than he did this time.

“I can definitely beat the record,” he said.

Other contenders included 100-pound Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., who once ate 65 hard boiled eggs in a little more than 6 ½ minutes, and local favorite Eric “Badlands” Booker, a 6-foot-4, 425-pound subway conductor from Long Island who holds speed-eating records for pies and matzo balls.

The champion eaters arrived just before noon in a bus from Manhattan, accompanied by a police escort.

‘Like World Cup’

First-time competitor Erik “The Red” Denmark, 28, of Seattle, who downed 22 hot dogs, said he was just happy to be there.

“It’s like making it to the World Cup,” said Denmark, who can boast of having eating 98 jalapenos in 15 minutes.



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