Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest: Joey Chestnut four-peats, Takeru Kobayashi missed

joey-chestnut-nathans-hot-dog-2009-320.jpgAs the Nathan's Famous International hot dog eating contest enters its 95th year, reigning champ Joey Chestnut claims victory yet again for a four-peat, but with only 54 hot dogs and buns (HDB) consumed, falls disappointingly short of breaking his record of 68.

Casting a shadow over the July Fourth festivities is the conspicuous absence of Chestnut's chief competitor, Takeru Kobayashi. A contract dispute with the Major League of Eating keeps the Japanese gurgitator in the crowd as a spectator only ( and was later arrested) . His fierce eating and signature digestive wiggle is sorely missed.

The year's contest is devoid of any real suspense without Kobayashi's jaws in action. Even Chestnut doesn't seem to feel any urgency to reach for that elusive 7-0, although he blames dehydration and the heat. Can this truly be considered a hot dog eat-off without the Japanese who held the Mustard Belt for nearly six years?

Other notable gustatory athletes on hand: Crazy Legs Conti (the "Houdini of Cuisini"), "The Lovely" and tiny Juliet Lee, Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas, Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti, The Notrious B.O.B. Shoudt and Tim "Eater X" Janus.

As the 10-minute contest begins, Chestnut pulls ahead early, eating more than 10 HDB in the first minute. It's pretty clear that Janus is holding his own in second place, but the third place title keeps toggling among Shoudt, Thomas and Bertoletti.

So far, there aren't any new techniques on display. We see the athletes soaking the buns, solomoning and stuffing. Finally, Bertoletti claims the third place spot. In the end, Janus has consumed 45, and Bertoletti, 37.

Frankly (heh), we're pretty disappointed. No Kobabyashi, no suspense and no record broken.

Having Chestnut trash talk Kobayashi doesn't sit well with us either. "If he were a real man, he'd be on the stage," says the victor, who was downing Pepto Bismol immediately after competing. "There's no reason for him not to be here."

UPDATE: Kobayashi apparently was able to add a little excitement to the proceedings. He was arrested by NYPD for trying to rush the stage after the contest.

Did you watch? What's your take on the contest and Kobayashi's absence?

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Photo credit: Getty

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