NEW YORK — An animal rights activist learned a tough lesson Monday about getting between Joey Chestnut and a plate full of hot dogs as the Major League Eating legend won a record 15th Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest championship in Coney Island.
The protester sporting a Darth Vader mask interrupted Chestnut as he devoured 63 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. The stunt likely preventing the gutsy athlete from approaching his own world record, set last year, of 76 wieners devoured.
Video captured the activist shove the champ aside as he forced hot dogs down his gullet. The activist showed a sign to the cameras reading “Expose Smithfield’s Deathstar” — a reference to Nathan’s supplier Smithfield Foods, according to protest sponsor Direct Action Everywhere.
Chestnut grabbed the activist around the neck in a wrestling-style takedown while George Shea, the straw-hat wearing event host, helped tackle him to the ground.
Chestnut then returned to his meal.
“It was a crazy contest,” Chestnut said after conquering Coney Island’s iconic July 4 event yet again. “I’m happy I was able to come through on top. New York is amazing. There’s no place like it in the world.”
The NYPD confirmed that three people were taken into custody in connection with the protest and that charges were pending.
With the beach crowd chanting his name — “Jo-ey, Jo-ey, Jo-ey” — Chestnut beat the second-place finisher by a full 20 hot dogs.
Chestnut walked into the pre-food fest weigh-in on crutches, saying he ruptured a tendon in his right leg.
“I feel better then I look,” he said.
Chestnut weighed in at 235 pounds. He said it usually takes about five to seven days to feel normal after the gastrointestinal endurance test.
The GEOAT — Greatest Eater of All Time — walked away with another mustard-colored belt to wrap around his full waist. He’s won all but one Nathan’s contest since 2006.
Miki Sudo, the eight-time hot dog eating champ, won the women’s contest by eating 40 hot dogs and buns.
Nathan’s historians date the first contest back to July 4, 1916 — the year Ida and Nathan Handwerker opened Nathan’s on Surf Avenue.
That Independence Day, three men were arguing over who was the most American, and began scarfing down hot dogs to prove their patriotism.
Since then, the contest has become an international event, drawing contestants from all over the world and live coverage from ESPN.
(With Graham Rayman)