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2000s / Hot Dog-Eating Champ Takeru Kobayashi
At the prestigious annual Nathan's Hot Dog eating championship in 2001, a skinny, unheralded 23-year-old Japanese contestant named Takeru Kobayashi blew away the field by consuming 50 hot dogs (and buns!) in 12 minutes to double the previous world record. Organizers were so unprepared for Kobayashi's spectacular display of gluttony that they had to resort to hand-written signage to keep track of his astonishing total of devoured dogs. To prove it was no fluke, Kobayashi won the next five Fourth of July Coney Island classics too--with totals of 50, 50.5, 44.5, 53.5 and 53.75 hot dogs respectively. In 2007, despite downing a personal best 63 hot dogs, Kobayashi was upset by American upstart Joey Chestnut. Chestnut also get the better of Kobayashi in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Kobayashi ran afoul of event organizers when he refused to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating, the organization that runs the Coney Island event. Kobayashi was actually arrested as an intruder at the 2010 event when he climbed onstage to congratulate Chestnut on another victory. Kobayashi, nicknamed "The Tsunami" has set several world records in other eating disciplines, such as bratwurst, hamburgers, lobster rolls, and rice balls.