Joey Chestnut tackled an animal rights protester while winning his 15th Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest by eating 63 hot dogs in 10 minutes.
As Mr Chestnut finished his 17th hot dog, a protester wearing a Darth Vader mask forced his way onto the front of the stage beside the top US competitive eater. The protester was carrying a sign saying “Expose Smithfield Deathstar”.
Mr Chestnut grabbed the protester around the neck and threw him to the ground and promptly continued to eat, but in the end he didn’t reach his own record from last year when he ate 73 hot dogs.
Another protester wearing a storm trooper mask also entered the stage holding a similar sign. While it’s not entirely clear what the protesters were referring to, the signs’ message was likely connected to Smithfield Foods, the company providing the hot dogs for the competition.
Geoffrey Esper came in second place, 20 hot dogs behind Mr Chestnut at the Coney Island, New York contest.
After suffering a ruptured tendon in his leg, Mr Chestnut competed with his leg in a cast on Monday. The champion weighed in at 235 pounds before the competition, telling Fox News on Friday that his injury wouldn’t slow him down.
“I’m gonna eat like a madman,” he said on Friday.
“It’s a ruptured tendon,” he added. “It’s all right. I’ll be able to stand up and eat. I’m excited.”
Mr Chestnut, 38, first took part in the competition in 2007. Since then, he’s only lost once – Matt Stone won in 2015.
Miki Sudo, 36, won the women’s event – her eighth win in nine years – after finishing off 40 hot dogs in 10 minutes. The second place finisher, 2021 winner Michelle Lesco, 38, was 14 hot dogs behind Ms Sudo, who holds the record after eating 48,5 hot dogs in 2020.
Ms Sudo and Ms Lesco are close and used to be roommates, according to DailyMail.com. This year’s competition was the fourth time that Ms Lesco finished behind Ms Sudo, who was pregnant last year and didn’t take part.
“I want to set an example to do things that you love and push yourself to your absolute limits and, when things get difficult, to still give it a try. And, you know, you might actually just come out victorious,” she told ESPN after her victory.
Ms Sudo, who first entered the event in 2014, has won every time she’s entered the competition so far.