Japanese eating champ released after hot dog scuffle
NEW YORK—Former Japanese speed-eating champion Takeru "Tsunami" Kobayashi was released from a New York jail Monday after he tried to disrupt a hot dog eating contest he had won six times, police said.
Local media said Kobayashi, wearing a black t-shirt bearing the words "Free Kobi" in green, pleaded not guilty in a Brooklyn court to charges of disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and trespassing.
Kobayashi, who had earlier pulled out of the annual Independence Day contest, tried to storm the stage and disrupt Sunday's victory ceremony after he sat out the competition over a contract dispute.
"I went as a spectator to cheer on my buddies that I used to eat with," Kobayashi, 32, told reporters after his release, according to remarks carried by the sports cable channel ESPN.
"Everyone in the crowd kept chanting 'let him eat, let him eat.' So I jumped onto the stage to prove that I am still the champ, but I was arrested."
He said he made his move "in the heat of it," with an ill-fated hope organizers would let him participate.
"I am very hungry... I wish there were hot dogs in jail," Kobayashi said, noting that he had been served only a glass of milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while in custody.
Despite attempts by Kobayashi to disrupt the event, American Joey "Jaws" Chestnut ate his way to victory in the contest by wolfing down 54 hot dogs in just 10 minutes.
Chestnut, the 26-year-old reigning champion, left the rest of the competition trailing as he retained the coveted prize, a mustard-yellow prize-fighter's belt, with room to spare.
Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is considered the Super Bowl of competitive eating and the belt, which comes along with a purse of 20,000 dollars, is considered the holy grail.
The event has become so popular in the United States that it is shown live on ESPN and thousands turned out in a festival-like atmosphere on Sunday as temperatures soared above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).
Kobayashi still retains various records from other competitions, including eating 57 cow brains in 15 minutes and 41 lobster rolls in 10 minutes.
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