Joey Chestnut Tackles Protester During Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, Still Manages to Win

Chestnut fell way short of breaking his own record, while women's champion Miki Sudo made a strong comeback after taking a year off.

Joey Chestnut at the 2022 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest
Photo: Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Yesterday, the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest was held in Coney Island, New York, as it is every Independence Day, and for anyone arguing that the annual Fourth of July tradition is not a "real sport," the 2022 event would like to have a word with you. Not only did the top competitor arrive on crutches to battle through an ongoing injury, but at one point, the ten-minute contest even went full-contact.

As expected, Joey Chestnut — the top-ranked eater in the world according to Major League Eating and the all-time hot dog eating record holder with 76 dogs — easily won the event, meaning he has now won 15 of the last 16 contests and seven straight. But he was only able to choke down 63 dogs this year (still beating second place finisher Geoffrey Esper by 15.5 dogs) and was hindered by two setbacks: one before the event and one during.

Due to a ruptured tendon in his leg, Chestnut arrived in crutches and participated in the event while wearing a surgical boot, according to ESPN. "It hurts, but I was in the zone for a little bit. I was ignoring it," Chestnut, who said the pain did slow his overall pace, told the network, which televises the event.

Then, about 17 hot dogs into the competition, a protester wearing a Darth Vader mask and holding a sign reading "Expose Smithfield's Deathstar" pushed in front of Chestnut, leading the eater to stop long enough to put the protester in a headlock before they were dragged away.

A protester interrupts the 2022 Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest as Joey Chestnut grabbed them down from his neck
Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

In a statement posted to Twitter, the group Direct Action Everywhere claimed the protest "was against Nathan's pork supplier, Smithfield Foods, a company exposed for animal cruelty, worker abuse, & pollution." ESPN reported the breach inhibited the event to the point that gambling sites including FanDuel and DraftKings gave refunds on over/under bets, which had been set at 74.5 hot dogs.

On the women's side, Miki Sudo returned to form after taking a year off due to pregnancy. The now eight-time champion beat last year's winner, Michelle Lesco, by 40 dogs to 26. Similar to Chestnut, Sudo fell short of breaking her previous women's record of 48.5 hot dogs set in 2020.

"I want to set an example to do things that you love and push yourself to your absolute limits and, when things get difficult, to still give it a try," she was quoted as saying. "And, you know, you might actually just come out victorious."

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