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Sunday, July 4, 2004
Updated: July 5, 12:11 PM ET
'Tsunami' ingests 53½ hot dogs at contest

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- When it comes to eating hot dogs, "The Tsunami" still blows everybody away.

For the fourth straight year, rail-thin Takeru Kobayashi chewed up the competition at the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating competition Sunday, breaking his own previous world record.

Takeru Kobayashi
"The Tsunami" won the Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest for the fourth year in a row.

Kobayashi, of Nagano, Japan, gulped down 53½ wieners in 12 minutes and shattered his own world record by three dogs. In 2002, he had wolfed down 50½.

The closest competitor Sunday was newcomer Nobuyuki Shirota, 25, of Tokyo, who made an impressive showing but couldn't cut the mustard with 38 downed dogs.

Once again, then, the contest's coveted Mustard Yellow Belt returns to Japan. Since 1996, the Japanese have dominated the competition and only one American -- New Jersey's Steve Keiner in 1999 -- has captured the belt at the signature July 4 extravaganza.

The 5-foot-7, 132-pound Kobayashi, of Nagano, Japan, employed his trademark method of snapping the dogs in half before swallowing them to destroy the 19 other contestants.

Meanwhile, 105-pound Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, 36, of Alexandria, Va., could relish two new records: She ate more hot dogs -- 32 -- than any other woman and any other American in the contest's history.

Eric "Badlands" Booker, a 6-foot-4, 400-pound subway conductor from Long Island who came in fifth with 27 dogs, said he and the other competitive eaters were determined to unseat the Japanese.

"We aren't going to stop until we bring the belt back," he told ESPN.

Kobayashi seemed unworried.

"I will come back next year and try and break the record once again," he said.