With Joey Chestnut out, Patrick Bertoletti wins Nathan's hot dog eating contest

With the controversial absence of its king, Joey Chestnut, the competitive eating world turned its eyes to Coney Island, where an open field of competitors aimed to usurp the crown at Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July hot dog eating contest.

After 10 minutes of scarfing hot dogs, a new men’s champion emerged — Patrick Bertoletti. With mouth agape and stomach expanded, Bertoletti devoured 58 hot dogs to capture the Yellow Mustard Belt, outlasting 13 competitors.

For the first time in eight years, a new men’s champion was crowned.

Bertoletti, a Chicago native, returned to the event as the No. 9 ranked eater in the world. In his sixth appearance, he surpassed his personal best total of 55.

“Always the bridesmaid, never the bride,” Bertoletti said on ESPN2 after the competition. “Today, I’m getting married.”

The silver went to Geoffrey Esper, the favorite going into the event, who ate 53 hot dogs, while James Webb of Australia secured third place with 52 dogs consumed.

“I just can’t believe it. I always finished second or third, and this is big,” Bertoletti said. “With Joey not here, I knew I had a shot. I unlocked something inside me that I don’t know where it came from, but I’m not complaining.”

On the women’s side, the new potential face of competitive eating emerged as Miki Sudo, the reigning queen of the event, set a new women’s world record by downing 51 hot dogs in 10 minutes. She clinched her 10th Pink Belt in historic fashion, beating her previous world record of 48.5 hot dogs and buns and surpassing the 50-dog threshold.

“I finally did it,” Sudo said on ESPN2 after the competition. “We finally beat 50 hot dogs. So much of this is thanks to Mayoi Ebihara, who pushed me so much. Honestly, I prepared even more because I knew she was going to bring it.”

In second place, gobbling 37 hot dogs, was Tokyo-based competitive eater and social media star Mayoi “Ebimayo” Ebihara. In a neck-and-neck race to victory, Ebihara gave Sudo a run for her money for the second consecutive year, keeping pace with the champion for nearly the entire stretch of the competition.

Michelle “Cardboard Shell” Lesco, who claimed victory in the 2021 competition during Sudo’s absence, finished third, gobbling 23.5 hotdogs and buns, falling short of her personal best of 32 hotdogs and buns.

A mainstay in competitive eating, Sudo proved why she is the No.1 ranked competitive female eater and No. 3 overall. She has dominated the event every year since 2014, except for 2021, when she missed time due to pregnancy with her son Max.

“Ten years into this, I still have more to show,” Sudo said. “The women’s records are just going to improve.”

This year’s contest may have an asterisk attached as the man synonymous with the event, Chestnut, was banned due to a contractual agreement to endorse a rival brand of wiener, Impossible Foods, which produces vegan hot dogs.

Nathan’s and Shea refuted claims of a ban, telling CBS News, “He is never banned. He has never been banned. We want him there. We wanted him there. We conceded on all these elements. It was an exclusivity issue.”

Either way, “Jaws’” star power was notably absent.

For the last 17 years, Chestnut has been the Goliath of the contest, winning 16 of the previous 17 Nathan’s hot dog eating contests. MLE, the governing body for numerous competitive eating contests, has crowned him “the greatest eater in history.”

On average, Chestnut has eaten 66.47 wieners per year. , a mark which Bertoletti fell short of, a benchmark Chestnut may have expectedly surpassed as he has done many times before.

Chestnut is participating in a Fourth of July hot dog eating contest featuring Impossible Foods products at Fort Bliss in Texas at 2 p.m. PST. He is also set to face his biggest rival, former champion Takeru Kobayashi, in a Netflix special airing on Labor Day.

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