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Sunday, July 5, 1998 Published at 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK

World: Americas

Frankfurter foodfight

Eddie 'the Animal' and his Japanese rival

Americans have been celebrating their Independence Day - with fireworks, marching bands and, of course, hot dogs.

[ image: Eddie Krachie weighs in]
Eddie Krachie weighs in
However they have not been able to cheer a United States victory in the annual hot dog eating championship, which took place at the Coney Island amusement park in New York.

Once again the coveted Mustard Yellow International belt went to the Japanese noodle champion Hirofumi "Tokyo Terror" Nakajima.

The standard of the contest was lower than in previous years and Nakajima, a comparatively diminutive 61 kg, was able to win with a sub-par performance of 19 hot dogs in 12 minutes.

"I would like to be able to enjoy this," the 23-year-old champion said before his first bite at Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

A crowd of about 1,000 watched the messy meal, while a small group of vegetarians protested.

Two years ago Nakajima took the crown from a man nearly three times his size, Eddie "the Animal" Krachie, by eating no fewer than 23 hot dogs in 12 minutes. He retained the title last year with a world record 24-and-a-half hot dogs.

[ image: Hirofumi Nakajima holds aloft the coveted Mustard Belt]
Hirofumi Nakajima holds aloft the coveted Mustard Belt
Mr Nakajima was at a loss to explain how he was able to put away more food than his larger rivals.

"I don't know how I win," he said, "but I have a policy that I'm not going to be defeated by the size of the body.

"I feel very competitive when I see a big man."

A dark horse contender emerged this year from Kielder, Northumberland, in the shape of world haggis eating champion Barry Noble.

He got his title by eating one and a half pounds of haggis in less than a minute and a half.

[ image: British dark horse challenger and haggis champ Barry Noble]
British dark horse challenger and haggis champ Barry Noble
Perhaps in deference to his American hosts, he refused to express a preference for one food over the other.

"I'm not here to say which is the best - I'm here to enjoy myself," he said.

"Both taste good to me."

Before the contest, his wife Wendy Noble said, "I hope he will win in New York, but not having eaten hot dogs before I think it will take a lot of doing."

Her misgivings were well-founded. When the representatives of three continents met in gluttonous battle at high noon he managed just 10 hot dogs.

A comparative unknown, Charles "Hungry" Hardy, came second after putting away 17-and-a-half hot dogs. Eddie "the Animal" was third with just 14 - a poor showing compared to his score last year of 22.

A total of eight people contended for the title.

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