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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July, 2003, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Hot dog champion devours competition
Takeru Kobayashi (right) stuffs a hot dog into his mouth as third place winner Eric Booker looks on, 4 July 2003
Kobayashi was the clear winner...
Japanese champion Takeru Kobayashi has wolfed down 44-and-a-half hot dogs in 12 minutes, winning New York's annual contest for the third year in a row.

Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is one of the city's most unusual Independence Day celebrations.

Kobayashi - known as Tsunami for his technique of breaking the hot dogs in half and devouring the pieces together - takes home the highly coveted International Mustard Yellow Belt and, of course, a year's supply of hot dogs.

But he appeared disappointed that he failed to beat his world record of last year - when the 25-year-old ate an astonishing 50-and-a-half hot dogs.

Takeru Kobayashi from Nagano, Japan, recovers at the end of the hot dog eating competition, 4 July 2003
... but the world champion failed to match his previous best
As the buzzer sounded for the end of the competition, Kobayashi banged his head and his fist on the table, before sinking to his knees in frustration.

But Kobayashi - who is also the Japanese noodle champion - was too much for the other 20 contestants.

Former American football star William Perry - known as "The Refrigerator" - had been much hyped, weighing more than three times Kobayashi at 190 kilograms (420 pounds).

But he dropped out less than half-way through the contest after managing just one hot dog a minute.


Ed "Cookie" Jarvis, a 35-year-old real estate salesman from Long Island and reigning Battle of the Buffet champion, came second place.

He broke the US record by eating 30-and-a half hot dogs.

Chicago's giant hot dog goes on display
This hot dog may prove too much even for the New York competitors
New York subway conductor Eric "Badlands" Booker won third place after eating 29 hot dogs.

This year's event was opened by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a sign of how much a part of 4 July celebrations the competition has become.

It has been held every year since 1916.

But the light-hearted competition has not been without controversy.

Previous years have seen protests by vegetarians and accusations of contestants using muscle relaxants to ease the stomach and swallowing mechanisms or jumping the gun to begin eating.

But even the most hardy of contestants may baulk at a hot dog currently being displayed in the US city of Chicago.

At 16 feet, 1 inches in length, the jumbo dog was made by a Chicago beef company in celebration of July being National Hot Dog Month.

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