NEW YORK — Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi, the six-time hot dog eating world champ, stood belly to belly Tuesday with the American who overtook his world record in the official contest weigh-in outside City Hall.
Kobayashi, burdened by a jaw injury and a recent tooth extraction, said he will make a game-day decision on facing Joey Chestnut, 23, of San Jose, Calif., at Wednesday’s hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous on Coney Island.
Chestnut recently broke Kobayashi’s world record of 53 3/4 hot dogs and buns with a meaty tally of 59 1/2 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.
The two are among 17 big eaters in the annual contest, which began in 1916.
Plagued by injury, Kobayashi seemed unlikely to compete when he announced days ago that he could barely open his mouth the width of a fingernail. But at the weigh-in, Kobayashi flashed his chompers with gapping smiles.
“I really haven’t had practice with my injured jaw. It was getting bad,” he said through a translator. “Now I can get two fingers in” my mouth.
Kobayashi said having his record broken motivated him to push past any pain in an effort to compete.
Chestnut, who lost to Kobayashi in the 2005 and 2006 competitions, said the frankfurter-swallowing champ looked ready to defend his coveted Mustard Yellow International Belt.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Chestnut said. “He looks ready. He looks like he’s going to be at 100 percent, so I’ll give 110 percent.”
^Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
Hot Dog Champs Face Off