Not even lightning and heavy rain could stop Joey Chestnut on Tuesday.
After a delay of almost two hours for inclement weather, Chestnut continued his dominance at the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, winning his 16th title in 17 years.
Chestnut ate 62 hot dogs and buns during the 10-minute contest in front of cheering spectators during the Fourth of July spectacle on Coney Island in New York. Runner-up Geoffrey Esper ate 49 hot dogs.
“What a rollercoaster emotionally,” Chestnut said during ESPN’s telecast, referring to the weather delay. “They told us it was canceled. We weren’t sure we were going to eat today, and I’m just happy. It’s the Fourth of July and I got to eat some hot dogs and get a win.’’
Chestnut came up 14 shy of his record of 76, but ate more than enough to crush the competition and win the mustard belt awarded to the champion. He said the weather delay affected his performance.
“I got leftover room,” he said, “so I’ll be having beers later.’’
Since 2007, Chestnut has lost just once – in 2015, when Matt Stonie ate 62 hot dogs and Chestnut downed 60.
Over the next six years, Chestnut ate no fewer than 70 hot dogs and tightened his grip on the belt.
Last year Chestnut ate 63 hot dogs but was competing on a broken right leg and fewer than three weeks after his mother died.
“Looking back, it’s crazy that I even wanted to compete last year,’’ Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports the week before this year’s contest. “And I’m just really happy that I’m feeling so much better right now.’’
A year after a protester rushed the stage and ended up in a Chestnut chokehold, the contest was incident-free.
The women’s competition was held before the heavy rain and lightning delayed the festivities.
Miki Sudo won her ninth title while devouring 39½ hot dogs and buns.
Mayo Ebihara of Japan finished second with 33½ hot dogs. Sudo said she knew Ebihara was a threat and it distracted her early.
“I was watching her, I fumbled my hands, I got stuck with a big burp early on,” she said during ESPN’s telecast. “But I was able to correct.”
Since 2014, Sudo has failed to win just once – when she skipped the 2021 contest because she was pregnant.