Print and Go Back ESPN.com: MoreSports [Print without images]

Friday, July 4, 2003
Updated: July 5, 11:35 AM ET
Kobayashi again proves bigger isn't always better

ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Frankly speaking, it wasn't even close.

For an unprecedented third straight year, rail-thin Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi out-gorged the competition Friday in the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest, downing 44½ dogs and dominating adversaries three times his size.

Kobayashi, the Michael Jordan of wiener wolfing, twitched and twisted to finish his franks at the rate of one every 16 seconds in a 12-minute display of gastronomic supremacy at the annual Fourth of July extravaganza.

Celebrity contestant William "The Refrigerator" Perry was outclassed by the assembled chowhounds. The 410-pound former NFL star dropped out of the competition after just five minutes, with only four hot dogs finished.

Once again, the American competitive eaters were left to fight for second place as a Japanese champion was crowned for the sixth time in the last seven years. Runner-up Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, 6-foot-6 and 420 pounds, trailed the champion by 14 hot dogs.

The 145-pound Kobayashi, of Nagano, Japan, employed his trademark "Solomon method" -- snapping the dogs in half before swallowing them -- to destroy both the other 19 contestants and his digestive track.

He once again raised the mustard-yellow championship belt above his head in victory, flashing thumbs-up to a crowd of more than 3,000 fans outside the original Nathan's in Coney Island. The contest was first held in 1916.

Kobayashi downed his first hot dog in five seconds, and 13 in the first two minutes, as he sprinted to the lead like Carl Lewis with a frankfurter fetish.

But the 5-foot-7 Kobayashi, who sports a 30-inch waist, was disappointed that he failed to break his own record of 50 dogs. Kobayashi banged the table holding the hot dogs, and put his hands to his head in dismay.

"I feel sad I didn't break the record," he said through an interpreter. "I came here to set the record."

George Shea, spokesman for the event, couldn't believe that Kobayashi was anything but proud of his performance.

"I'm shocked anybody would characterize this as anything short of stupendous," Shea said. "This is an athlete who still remains at another level than the rest of the competition."

Jarvis, of Nesconset, N.Y., pounded down a U.S. record 30 franks to finish second. Third place went to New York subway conductor Eric "Badlands" Booker, a 6-foot-4, 400-pounder who sucked down 29 tube steaks and buns.

Sonya Thomas of Alexandria, Va., set a women's record by downing 25 hot dogs and finishing fourth.