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NEW YORK - Joey Chestnut just never gets sick of winning.
The undisputed competitive eating champion scarfed down a staggering 71 hot dogs in just 10 minutes to capture his 12th Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, continuing his Fourth of July dominance on a hot and sticky Coney Island afternoon.
The 35-year-old Californian jumped to a quick lead in the first 60 seconds and cruised to victory Thursday, although he fell short of his record 74 franks set in last year's competition. By the mid-way point, he'd downed 45 hot dogs - a pace that would have shattered the old mark - but the 6-foot-1, 216-pound champ knocked back a mere 26 franks in the last five minutes.
"I was going for 75," said Chestnut after grabbing a quick lead in the annual test of determination and digestion. "I always want a new record. I came out fast, but I slowed down faster than I would have liked."
Chestnut inhaled one hot dog every 8.5 seconds on the way to defending the mustard yellow championship belt.
The gastronomic gladiator vanquished 17 challengers on a sun-splashed day when the heat and humidity made it feel like 95 degrees.
"I don't know if it was the heat or what," said Chestnut, known to his fans as "Jaws."
Reigning women's champion Miki Sudo chomped her way to a sixth consecutive title on the female side of the competition, knocking back 31 hot dogs. She easily dispatched runner-up Michelle Lesco, who inhaled a respectable 26 hot dogs.
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Related slideshow: Best of the Hot Dog Eating Contest (Provided by USA TODAY Sports)