NEW YORK - High-ranking chowhound Joey "Jaws" Chestnut dropped to one knee and proposed to his longtime girlfriend before Friday's annual hot dog eating contest, then packed away 61 franks and buns to hold onto his coveted mustard yellow winner's belt.
The San Jose, Calif., resident fell far short of his record last year of 69 dogs and buns, but he still easily beat second-place finisher Matt Stonie, who downed 56.
"Winning was the only option," the newly engaged champion said afterward. "I wasn't going to taint today with a loss."
Chestnut took a quick timeout before the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island to make it official with his longtime girlfriend, Neslie Ricasa, also a competitive eater.
In the women's division, defending champion Sonya "Black Widow" Thomas lost her title to Miki Sudo.
Sudo, of Las Vegas, wolfed down 34 franks and buns. Thomas, of Alexandria, Virginia, devoured 27 3/4.
Chestnut has won eight times in a row. In 2010, his former rival Takeru Kobayashi refused to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, the food equivalent of the NFL, and was banned from competition.
This year, the Japanese native, nicknamed the Tsunami, competed against five other eaters at a separate event in Manhattan in a quest to down the most hot dogs without buns in 10 minutes. He was victorious in that bun-less eat-off, downing 113 frankfurters, an event spokeswoman said.