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Men To Bite Dogs For Fun

Call it getting the skinny on the Kobayashi.

As in Takeru Kobayashi, last year's 113-pound winner of the Nathan's Famous

Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Kobayashi, 24, of Nagoya, Japan, was back in New York City yesterday to

defend his title against challengers who - going by their size - could probably

swallow him.

"If I can eat as usual, I am 95 percent sure that I will win this year,"

said Kobayashi, who won last year's contest by eating 50 hot dogs in 12

minutes, double the previous record of 25 1/8 hot dogs set by Kazutoyo Arai in


Nineteen people are hoping to beat Kobayashi during today's contest at noon

on Coney Island. They have even studied Kobayashi's eating methods in hopes of

sending him home hungry.

"I've adopted various Kobayashi methods," said Joe Menchetti, 32, of

Wallingford, Conn.

Menchetti said Kobayashi does "as little chewing as humanly possible. It's

kind of like taking an aspirin."

Menchetti said using that strategy allowed him to eat 18 1/2 hot dogs in 12

minutes at the qualifying round in Tucson, Ariz.

Eric Booker, who holds the American record, said he also took notes from

Kobayashi, leading to the creation of what he called "Double Japanesing."

Booker, a 402-pound subway conductor from Copiague, said his new method

allows him to eat hot dogs faster.

He said speed is what won the contest for Kobayashi last year.

"I just feel really good. I'm at the peak of my eating career. Just a great

time right now," Booker said during the weigh-in in City Hall Park yesterday.

This year's contestants got good news from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who

promised that he does not plan to raise the tax on hot dogs, as he did on

cigarettes recently.

"Personally I would like to keep the taxes on hot dogs very low because I

like hot dogs," the mayor said.

Tax policies aside, Kobayashi said he was confident he could take this

year's championship belt home with him again.

"I don't think other competitors can mimic my method completely," he said.

"Even if they master my method, I can win. I believe in myself."

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