Miki Sudo (third from left, front row) wins the annual Independence Day hot dog eating contest in New York on July 4. Mayoi Ebihara (far left, front row) came in second place. (Kyodo)

Rafu Wire Service and Staff Reports

Miki Sudo emerged victorious – again – in the 2023 Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, held July 4 on Coney Island and broadcast live on ESPN.

Sudo, 37, a former Las Vegas resident who now lives in Port Richey, Fla., claimed her ninth title in the competition with 39.5 hot dogs downed in 10 minutes.

Challenger Mayoi Ebihara, a 28-year-old social media influencer, come close with 33.5. An official plate count was needed to determine the winner. Michelle Lesco was third with 24.25.

The two women held a firm lead over the other 13 contestants and were neck and neck until around halfway through the race.

Sudo, the No. 1 female competitive eater with Major League Eating, posted on social media, “Today’s contest was an amazing, nail-biting, back-and-forth match with an exciting newcomer, Miss Mayoi Ebihara! I hope to see her back next year!”

Despite the win, Sudo expressed disappointment with her total, which was nine hot dogs short of her all-time high of 48.5 in 2020, and said she was thrown off by Ebihara. “The first couple minutes, I found myself watching her, which I never want to do. I never want to be distracted by the other competitors.”

Tokyo-based Ebihara, who has become popular via her YouTube videos, proved to be a formidable challenger to the champ, staying close to the leader thoughout the 10 minutes. She was only two dogs back at the halfway point, and tied Sudo at 33 near the end of the contest.

Miki Sudo (front right) and Mayoi Ebihara (front left) participate in the Independence Day hot dog eating contest in New York on July 4. (Kyodo)

“It was fun because it felt like a festival, unlike the eating contests in Japan,” Ebihara said.

“I couldn’t start calmly with Ebihara in mind, but I’m happy to have won,” Sudo said after the contest. “I’m going to keep participating until I can eat 50 hot dogs,” she added.

Sudo fell just short of her winning mark of last year, when she gobbled 40 wieners and buns to take the women’s title. She skipped the 2021 contest, as she was pregnant at the time.

The overall winner for the 16th time, and the eighth time in a row, was Joey Chestnut with 62 hot dogs, followed by Geoffrey Esper with 49 and James Webb with 47. The men’s contest was delayed by rain and there were erroneous reports that the contest had been canceled.

Like Sudo, Chestnut fell short of his own record — 76 hot dogs in 2021.

Many of the Nathan’s competitors, including Chestnut and Sudo, have also participated in the Day-Lee Foods World Gyoza-Eating Championship, which was held during Nisei Week in Little Tokyo.

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