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Associated Press
Joey Chestnut, center, wins the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Thursday with a total of 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Fellow contestants Tim Janus, left, and Matt Stonie also competed at Coney Island, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Chestnut downs 69 dogs to win 7th straight contest

NEW YORK – Joey Chestnut has downed 69 franks and devoured his own record in the annual Coney Island hot dog eating contest.

The San Jose, Calif., man known as Jaws scarfed down the dogs and buns to win the Fourth of July men’s contest. He takes home $10,000 and a mustard-yellow champion’s belt.

Sonya Thomas, a 100-pound dynamo known as the “Black Widow” of competitive eating, wolfed down nearly 37 wieners for a narrow victory in the women’s competition.

Chestnut, 29, is a seven-time winner who set the old record – 68 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes – in 2009 and tied it last year. Thomas, 45, powered through 45 dogs to take the women’s championship last year and also won in 2011, the first year women competed separately.

Chestnut had said his pace has been uneven in the past, but “this year I’m trying to eat a little more gracefully, conserve my energy.”

Second-place finisher was Matt Stonie, who chomped down 51 hot dogs.

With this year’s victory, Chestnut has now bested his former rival, Takeru Kobayashi, who won six times. Kobayashi competed in a different eating contest Thursday.

Thomas went toe-to-toe with Juliet Lee with a second to spare. Lee ate 36 hot dogs.

Thomas said the challenge of shoveling down dozens of franks is actually “more mental than physical.”

“I have to fight with myself, so I’m going to try to really focus,” said Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., where she manages a fast-food restaurant. And no, it doesn’t serve hot dogs.

Now in its 98th year, the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest generally draws a crowd of thousands to marvel at contestants cramming frankfurters down their throats.

The chow-down showdown is on this year despite concerns about a swaying, shuttered observation tower that spurred the closure of parts of the nearby amusement park this week. The shutdown didn’t affect Nathan’s.

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