NEW YORK (AFP) - America's reigning hot dog-eating champion earned his eighth consecutive world title in New York on Friday, but took a moment before inhaling 61 dogs to propose to his girlfriend - who said yes.
Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, 30, completed the feat in 10 minutes, but devoured fewer of the cooked sausages in buns than last year, when he ate 69 during a world-record setting performance at the annual competition.
"I could never find my rhythm," 93-kilogram Chestnut said after this year's contest. But Mr Chestnut made sure the day was memorable, dropping to one knee before live television and a crowd of some 30,000 spectators and proposed to his girlfriend Neslie Ricasa, also a competitive eater.
Defending women's champion Sonya Thomas was dethroned by newcomer 28-year-old Miki Sudo, who inhaled 34 hot dogs. Ms Sudo described beating Thomas, also known as the "Black Widow" for her ability to eat more than males, as "surreal."
Mr Thomas, 46, set the women's world record in 2012, when she ate 45 hot dogs. During Friday's annual Fourth of July event, however, she managed to down only 27.75. A total of 17 men and 13 women vied for this year's title in the annual Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest at the Brooklyn seaside resort of Coney Island, where the goal is to eat as many hot dogs as possible in 10 minutes.
What are the champions' secrets? To get the dogs down, each contestant has certain tricks, but most soak the bread in water and eat the meat separately. Some jump in place, helping their megameal slide down. Anyone who vomits is disqualified.
Ms Thomas, who weighs 45 kgs, will have to console herself with her 23 world records, from an array of food genres. She is the champion of baked beans, cheesecake, lobster, and oysters, according to Major League Eating. But her favourite food is hard-boiled eggs. She can eat 92 in eight minutes.
Mr Chestnut of California, who walked away from the competition with $10,000, has earned 31 world records, including bratwurst sausages (70 in 10 minutes) and hard-boiled eggs (141 in eight minutes). The hot-dog eating contest dates back to 1916, when the champion devoured 13 dogs in 10 minutes.