NEW YORK (Reuters) - Holding aloft a trophy in one hand and a bottle of Pepto-Bismol in the other, Joey Chestnut on Monday was top dog once again.
Chestnut was declared world champion for the fifth year running at the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at New York's Coney Island after stuffing 62 hot dogs down his throat in 10 minutes.
Chestnut, a 220-pound 27-year-old engineering student from San Jose, California, bested 16 other competitors including three who had flown in from China, according to George Shea, the competition's exuberant master of ceremonies.
Chestnut palpated his belly in preparation for the contest. After a countdown, ten minutes began ticking down on the clock as the men went the job furiously, side-by-side, cheek to jowl, to the cheers of hundreds of spectators.
"It's almost like he's bending the hot dogs in his mouth like oral origami," Shea said of Chestnut, who periodically shook his stomach vigorously in what fans said has become his trademark move.
"He's an artist. The hot dogs submit to him. Matter bends to his will. He has God's username and password and he's using it to his advantage," Shea told the boisterous crowd on a warm afternoon.
Dripping with sweat, Chestnut was later draped in a U.S. flag and handed the mustard-yellow belt of the champion -- along with a winner's check for $10,000.
What was he doing to do now he had 62 hot dogs inside him?
"I'm going to take a big nap," he said.
Winner in the women's division was Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, a 5-foot 5-inch, 105-pound 42-year-old from Alexandria, Virginia.
Thomas, dressed in bright pink shorts and a white baseball cap, bested eight competitors by downing 40 hot dogs -- one shy of her personal record, she said.
Juliet Lee, the runner-up, managed only 29, which she blamed on the fact that she was missing her daughter, who was in China. Another loser said she got a catastrophic bout of hiccups mid-competition.
"She eats with a cloven tongue -- it is the mark of Cain," Shea said, describing Thomas. "Her stomach is a cauldron. Her mouth is like a vise."
Many contestants jerked their heads back as they ate, as if to minimize the curve of throats that might otherwise hinder the passage of half-chewed food. The more accomplished were able to make a hot dog disappear within three or four seconds.
Thomas said she liked to soften the buns with splashes from her water cup, so it might be "swallowed like a soup."
"It's just very efficient eating," Shea said. "It leaves an enormous amount of time to pursue other interests."
Thomas also took home a $10,000 winner's check.
"How do you feel, baby?" Shea asked Thomas as he handed her the trophy.
Thomas just made a wordless sound somewhere between a cheer and a groan.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen. Editing by Peter Bohan