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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

It just wouldn't be the Fourth of July without a feeding frenzy by "Jaws."

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut, 35, won his record 12th Nathan's Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York, on Thursday by mowing through 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes, coming three short of his own record of 74 set last year.

Joey Chestnut took home the mustard belt for a record 12th time after winning the men's competition at the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York. Sarah Stier / AP

"I was going for 75,'' Chestnut said on the live ESPN broadcast. "I always love to get a new record. Hopefully, I'll come back next year, and I'll strategize, and I'll figure out a way to do it."

As a throng of fans wearing foam hot dog hats cheered for him in the nearly 90-degree heat, Chestnut got off to a furious pace, eating 45 hot dogs after five minutes before coming up just short of his goal in the end.

"I came out fast and then I slowed down,'' he said on ESPN. "I tried to adjust, tried to chew more, make it easier for my throat to swallow, but I was just slowing down. I don't know if it was the heat or what. I'll figure it out."

Chestnut, who holds 49 world records across various eating categories, obliterated the competition once again to retain the mustard belt that goes to the winner. Darron Breeden was the closest competitor with 50 hot dogs.

Using the popular "Solomon Method" — in which the hot dog is split in half, the buns are dipped in water, and then both are consumed — Chestnut started off eating 10 hot dogs per minute through the first three minutes to set a furious pace.

He wasn't the only dominant eater buzz-sawing through hot dogs on Thursday, as Miki Sudo, 33, repeated as women's champion by firing down 31 after eating 37 to win the crown last year.

Miki Sudo celebrates after winning the Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog-Eating Contest for the sixth straight time. EDUARDO MUNOZ / Reuters

The Arizona resident has now won six pink belts in a row as women's champion to tie men's competitor Takeru Kobayashi for the second-longest winning streak of either gender behind Chestnut.

Michelle Lesco ate 26.5 hot dogs to finish second to Sudo for the second straight year. Sudo also holds world records for eating kimchi (8.5 pounds in six minutes); ice cream (16.5 pints in six minutes) and wild rice hot dish (14 pounds in eight minutes), according to Major League Eating.

Since 1972, Nathan's Famous has hosted the contest in Coney Island every year on July Fourth, which also falls within National Hot Dog Month.

The contest was derived from a patriotic legend in which four immigrants allegedly gathered at the first Nathan's Famous hot dog stand on Coney Island in 1916 on Independence Day, according to Nathan's. They wanted to determine who was the most devoted U.S. citizen and did so with a hot dog eating contest.

As for the modern-day legend of the contest, Chestnut uttered the three most terrifying words to any hot dog eating competitor at the end of his ESPN interview after his win on Thursday.

"I love pushing myself on this stage,'' he said. "And I'll be back."