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Nathan's hot dog contenders gear up for competition

Five-time Nathan's Famous Champion Joey Chestnut celebrates his

Five-time Nathan's Famous Champion Joey Chestnut celebrates his sixth title by equaling his record of 68 hot dogs and buns in ten minutes during Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island. (July 4, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut is the heavy favorite to chew up the competition Thursday en route to another hot-dog-munching championship in Coney Island.

Chestnut, 29, holds the world record for gobbling 68 hot dogs in 10 minutes -- he's done that twice -- and is seeking his seventh victory in the 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Fourteen men are vying to dethrone Chestnut, who lives in San Jose, Calif., and trains by stretching out his stomach with water, milk and protein supplements.

A top rival is Tim "Eater X" Janus, 36, of Harlem, who placed second in the July Fourth contest last year and is ranked No. 2 worldwide.

In his pursuit of the $20,000 prize, Janus will not try to psych out Chestnut, at least verbally. "I can't stand smack talk," he said, calling it "not very professional."

Janus, who also works as a waiter and bartender, stumbled into competitive eating years ago.

"Only Joey Chestnut can make a living at it. There's a real steep drop-off for the rest of us," he said.

As for the physical toll competitive eating exacts, Janus said that after a contest "You spend a lot of time wishing that maybe you hadn't eaten so many hot dogs. . . . Who knows what's going on with our stomachs? It's probably better not to know."

In the women's competition, nine contestants are vying for the title. The favorite is Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas, of Alexandria, Va., who has devoured 45 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

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