Apple pie, lemonade, lazy days on the front porch...hot dog eating contests. There are few things as ingrained in the Americana culture as Nathan’s yearly display of brave competitors willing to go the extra footlong to achieve Independence Day immortality.
Last year, a young up-and-comer with a belly full of fire overtook the longstanding legend to win the crown of champion.
This year, I predict, will be much different.
Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who holds the record of 69.dogs consumed in 10 minutes, slipped in his form last year, losing to Matt “Megatoad” Stonie in a stunning upset that rocked the competitive eating world.
But the key to victory for Megatoad was not in how many dogs he consumed (62), but in how little (60) Chesnut devoured.
The deviation from the “gold standard” of Chestnut, who was consistently breaking his own record each year after becoming the man to beat when rival Kobayashi was disbarred from the championship over contract disputes and a staged disruption, is merely a blip on Joey’s consumption radar.
But like a true champion, Jaws has come back stronger than ever and is headed into this year’s championship after qualifying in Washington D.C. with 73 dogs. If Joey is within 5 or 6 of that score, he will walk away with this championship.
Thus, prediction: Joey Chesnut regains his glory.
Hats off to Megatoad, though, as his ability to stay within range of Chestnut, who is so far beyond the other eaters in terms of consumption, has forced the disbanding of an “open tournament” and led to the creation of a “Main Event,” which will pit these two fierce competitors against each other.
Which leaves us with two more categories that spawned out of the process: Men’s and Women’s.
In the Men’s division, it is hard not to root for Eric “Badlands” Booker, who despite not being anywhere near the conversation of who will win year after year, returns to give it another try. However, his qualifying score of 23.5 dogs offers little hope for a stunning upset.
Adrien Morgan enters the Men’s division with the highest qualifying score at 39, but my money is going to with Gideon Oji. At 6’9” and 24 years of age, Oji has the potential to be the next Main Event competitor, and this year is destined to be his breakout year. His qualifying score of 33 dogs puts him in the middle of all the Men’s division competition, but if anyone is going to step up and shatter their personal records this year, it’s going to be Oji.
Men’s prediction: Gideon Oji.
The women’s competition is a little more competitive this year than the men’s. Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas is returning for her fourteenth year in Coney Island, but has recently made public comments about her ability to scarf down the dogs becoming more and more difficult as she ages. However, Thomas’ competitive nature is such that she should never be ruled out of any eating competition.
Especially, since she is coming back for revenge.
Miki Sudo ousted the longtime champion Thomas in 2014, and proved it wasn’t a fluke again in 2015. This year, Sudo comes into the game with a qualifying score of 40 dogs; a number that would be hard to beat if she pulled it off on the big stage.
Creeping in the shadows of competition is the perennial “bronze medalist,” Michelle Lesco. Her competition qualifying score of 28 seems to have her set up for another third-place day, but as consistent as she is in her eating scores, there’s always a chance for an “Any Given Monday” moment tomorrow.
However, prediction: Sudo by four dogs.
However you see the match playing out this year, make sure to catch in on the action July 4 at 12:00 PM EST. on ESPN3, or catch the replay on ESPN at 3:00