Kobayashi was unable to reach the Armstrong-ian mark of seven consecutive wins at Coney Island: San Jose-native Joey Chestnut beat Kobayashi 66-63. Kobayashi revolutionized the world of competitive hot dog eating: the record mark prior to Kobayashi was Arai's 25.5. When Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs for his first title, they didn't even have enough placards to count that high.
Chestnut's entry to the scene pushed the competition to new levels. The hot dog competition has traditionally pitted Japan vs. US over the years, and Chestnut was the great hope for the US regaining the crown. With no threat to his throne, Kobayashi only pushed his record to 53.5. In 2006, Kobayashi was actually behind Chestnut's pace until pulling ahead with 53.75.
2007 was an entirely new level for both competitors. Chestnut set a new record of 59 hot dogs in the Las Vegas qualifier, so it as clear that the Coney Island champ would be breaking the 60 hot dog mark. As in 2006, Chestnut pulled out to an early lead over Kobayashi -- I think he ate around 12 hot dogs in the first minute -- but Kobayashi was again able to close the gap and take the lead with a couple minutes to go. Kobayashi faltered in the final minute, though, suffering a penalizing 'reversal', and somehow Chestnut managed to stuff multiple hot dogs into his mouth to jump to a mind-boggling 66 hot dogs. To think that seven years ago, the record was less than half that.
I'm happy to see the crown in San Jose, but its sad to see an icon of a sport defeated. Kobayashi vows to return in 2008 to regain his crown, despite his jaw difficulties.