Preview: Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest

Well here it is again, folks — the Fourth of July. Aside from the fireworks displays and the pool parties, there are sporting events to be watched on television. Aside from the baseball games, Wimbledon and World Cup soccer matches — the real sporting events that require grit, determination and actual physical physical skill —  there is also competitive eating, and it takes center stage today.

It wouldn’t be an Independence Day celebration without Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest, and this year’s promises to be a true spectacle. Aside from the fact that they really televise grown adults gorging themselves to the point of asphyxiation while children all across the world are suffering from kwashiorkor, there are records to be broken and championship belts to be won, regardless if they actually fit or not when all is said and done.

Joey Chestnut Nathan's Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest
The Favorites

If there’s a Michael Jordan of competitive eating, it’s seven-time champ Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who returns to Coney Island in hopes of setting a new Major League Eating record, just like he did last year by downing 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes. His goal this year? 72. Other notable achievements for Chestnut include 2.125 gallons of chili in 6 minutes (that was in Orlando this past February),

For the women, 45-year-old Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas returns looking to defend her title from last year and reassert her claim as the top female competitive eater in the world. Last year, she was off the numbers just a bit, downing 36 3/4 hot dogs in 10 minutes, although still an impressive feat considering she’s only 105 pounds.

In 2011, Thomas became the first-ever Nathan’s Famous Female Hot Dog Eating Champion, downing 40. That next year, she set a new women’s world record with 45! She’ll try to match that again this year in an effort to unseat phenom Miki Sudo, who qualified for the contest last year but chose not to compete.

The Challengers

If there’s anyone who could even remotely challenge Chestnut, it’s fellow San Jose resident, 22-year-old Matt “Megatoad” Stonie, who finished second in the contest last year with 51 and improved that mark with 53 at a contest last month in Boston. Despite weighing 75 pounds less than Chestnut, Stonie managed to defeat him in Niko Niko’s Gyro Eating Championship in May. Interestingly, Stonie’s studying to become a dietitian.

For the women, Miki Sudo figures to be the one standing in the way of Thomas. She is currently ranked fourth in the world among both men and women, remarkable considering the 28-year-old made her Major League Eating debut just last year. In her debut, on April 20, 2013, Sudo downed 40 Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs in New York. That very next weekend, she traveled to California and ate 7 1/2 pounds of San Joaquin Valley deep-fried asparagus, so she’s got stellar recovery.

The women’s competition is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. The men’s competition will start at 12:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on ESPN 2.