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Champion Hot Dog Eaters Weigh In for July 4th Nathans Contest

Summer traditions are coming back in New York City, and that includes Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest

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Seventy-five hot dogs in 10 minutes — that's the record set by Joey Chestnut that this year's contest champions will try to beat Sunday, including the record holder himself.

The group of competitive eaters with their sights set on the top prize came out to Hudson Yards on Friday to weigh in before the Fourth of July contest. As tradition dictates, the competitors starred off after stepping up to the scale.

Chestnut returns to defend his record set last year when he ate 75 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. The 13-time champion is the favorite to claim victory once again in men's division — and said he think s he may be able to top last year's total.

"I'm hoping I can find a good rhythm and get myself to a new record," Chestnut said. "I've had some amazing practices this year and I feel really in-tune with my body. Go to my happy place, ignore whatever else is happening and not slow down."

Geoffrey Esper is the number two eater in the world, and will be competing on Sunday, hoping to take down the champ. Esper didn't compete last year, but has beaten Chestnut before. Other competitors have already embraced that Chestnut is in a league of his own, and are just trying to finish near him.

"The biggest thing is, (Chestnut) is going to win. We are fighting for second, third, fourth place," said competitor George Chiger. "We are just trying to beat our numbers to try to get close to him."

Another record holder, in the women's competition, Miki Sudo will not be back this year after eating 48 1/2 hot dogs and buns in 2020. Sudo promised to be back next year but is sitting out this year while pregnant and expecting a child by the end of July with fellow eating competitor Nick Wehry, which she called "the only acceptable reason I'm sitting out."

Michele Lesco is the odds-on favorite in the women's competition. Also competing will be Sarah Rodriguez, who is expected to be a close competitor, and Larell Marie Mele, the world pepperoni roll eating champion.

"My main three goals each contest is: Don't choke, don't puke and don't come in last," Mele said.

Michele Luso (left) and Joey Chestnut (right) stare each other down during the weigh in ahead of the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
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Michele Lesco (left) and Joey Chestnut (right) stare each other down during the weigh in ahead of the Nathans Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The hot dog contest is set to be held at Maimonides Park, next door to the Nathan's shop. Tickets are free but limited and will go out on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The annual festivities kick-off at 11 a.m. with the women's championship starting at 11:30 a.m. followed by the men at 12:30 p.m.

Last year's competition, which is normally held outside the Brooklyn flagship shop, was moved indoors. The number of men and women competing was dropped to five in each category, with plastic barriers dividing the competitors for safety.

Copyright NBC New York/Associated Press
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