Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut eats 71 hot dogs to win

Joey Chestnut reacts after winning the men's competition of Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in New York's Coney Island. (AP Photo/Sarah Stier)
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NEW YORK (AP) — Joey "Jaws'' Chestnut ate 71 wieners and buns to secure his 12th title at the annual Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog eating contest Thursday, just a few hot dogs shy of breaking the record he set last year.

In front of a crowd of fans and facing 17 opponents, the California native far exceeded his nearest competitors but didn't quite make or pass the 74-dog mark he reached in 2018.

Asked how he felt after the contest, Chestnut said, "I feel like I should eat a couple more.''

Miki Sudo had already won the women's competition by chomping down 31 hot dogs. She said she felt "wonderful'' as she walked off the stage.
Miki Sudo consumed 31 hot dogs, well short of her personal best but good enough for a sixth straight title. Kena Betancur/Getty Images

The 33-year-old fell short of her total last year of 37 frankfurters but earned her sixth consecutive title by easily beating runner-up Michelle Lesco, who wolfed down 26 hot dogs.

Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas holds the women's record of 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

Chestnut and Sudo will each take home $10,000.

Spectators with foam hot dog hats, plastic noisemakers and homemade signs descended on Coney Island's famed boardwalk for the contest.

The annual eat-off started in 1972, though the company has long promoted the event with a theatrical backstory that places its start date in 1916.

Chestnut has lost only once since 2007 when he pulled ahead of longtime foe Takeru Kobayashi for the first time. An ESPN documentary released Tuesday features the two former rivals and their extreme training regimens.

"It's not something that there's books written about," Chestnut says in the film, which shows him lifting his head up and down with a weight dangling from his mouth. "There's not trainers. Everything's trial and error."

Kobayashi no longer takes part in the event.