July 21, 2024

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Joey Chestnut nearly beats contest winner Nathan during a show at an Army base in Texas.

Joey Chestnut nearly beats contest winner Nathan during a show at an Army base in Texas.

Joey Chestnut devoured 57 hot dogs and a bagel Thursday in a five-minute display at Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, on the Fourth of July.

That was one less than the total winners of the 10-minute Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for Men in Coney Island, from which Chestnut was banned this year.

“I was going fast at first, then I slowed down a little bit, and for a moment I thought I might be able to do 60,” Chestnut said after eating 57 hot dogs and a bun.

“I wasn’t holding back.”

Pat Bertoletti ate 58 hot dogs at Nathan’s earlier in the day to win the mustard belt awarded to the champion. He was one of four competitors this year to eat 50 or more hot dogs — something no one did last year when Chestnut won his 16th title with 62 hot dogs.

“These guys did a great job!” Chestnut told USA TODAY Sports via text message. “They’ve gotten a lot better than last year. I’m really happy for Pat.”

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Competitive eater Joey Chestnut, right, celebrates after eating 13 olive burgers in five minutes before a minor league baseball game at Jackson Field in Lansing, Michigan, Aug. 10, 2023.

Competitive eater Joey Chestnut, right, celebrates after eating 13 olive burgers in five minutes before a minor league baseball game at Jackson Field in Lansing, Michigan, Aug. 10, 2023.

As he prepared for the show in El Paso, Chestnut, 40, set a goal: eat more hot dogs and buns in five minutes than the winner of the Nathan’s competition eats in 10 minutes.

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“I would be very happy to do that,” said Chestnut, who in 2021 set the Nathan’s record with 76 hot dogs and a bun.

Chestnut was barred from competing this year because he signed an endorsement deal with Impossible Foods. George Shea of ​​Major League Eating, which runs Nathan’s competition, said the company had launched a vegan hot dog, and Nathan sees Chestnut’s partnership with Impossible Foods as a conflict of interest.

Although Chestnut fans were denied the chance to see him during the ESPN telecast, his performance from the military base was streamed live on his YouTube page and viewed by about 19,000 people. He competed against four soldiers, who ate a total of 49 hot dogs and a bun.

Speaking to USA TODAY Sports last week, Chestnut said of Nathans’ ban: “There’s definitely a lot of pain. There’s a little bit of sadness.”

But he said that was nothing compared to what he endured in 2022, when he competed less than three weeks after his mother died from a broken leg.

“It’s really bad, but it’s not as bad as that situation,” Chestnut said. “I was able to get through that situation and I was able to get through the year I lost (in 2015 to Matt Stoney) and come back stronger. I’m going to get through this and we’ll see where it takes me.”

This article originally appeared in USA TODAY: How did Joey Chestnut fare compared to Nathan’s Hot Dog Contest winner?