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Friday, June 29, 2007
Kobayashi says injury isn't a ploy against rival Chestnut

Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Takeru Kobayashi dismissed speculation Friday that his recent jaw ailment could be a ploy against his main rival at the Nathan's hot dog eating championship next week in New York.

"That's not even funny," the 29-year-old Japanese eating machine said. "I don't even have time to think about that."

After his disclosure this week that he has a creaky jaw and he is getting treatment, some, including ESPN host Tony Kornheiser, suggested that Kobayashi was trying to lull American Joey Chestnut into complacency.

Chestnut gained the hot dog record five weeks ago, eating 59 1/2 dogs to Kobayashi's 53 3/4. They are expected to be among the competitors at the Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Nathan's Famous at New York's Coney Island on Wednesday. Kobayashi is looking for his seventh consecutive title.

Kobayashi said this week that misaligned wisdom teeth and his voracious competitive eating career have led to painful arthritis in his jaw.

In a phone interview using a translator from his New York hotel, he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he can only open his mouth to the width of two of his fingers.

"Right now, it's not so good, but I've been talking to professionals and taking their advice," he said. "They've been giving me exercises for relaxing the muscles and giving me some things I can do to relax and heal my jaw."

Kobayashi said he also wants to return to Chattanooga's Krystal hamburger eating contest in the fall. He is the reigning champion of the Krystal Square Off competition hosted by the Chattanooga-based fast-food chain.