Hot dog eating contest heats up
(CNN) -- When we think of the Fourth of July, we usually ponder fireworks, baseball, apple pie and hot dogs.
But this many?
Friday afternoon two-time defending Japanese champion Takeru Kobayashi won his third straight title in the 88th annual Nathan's Famous hot dog eating contest at Coney Island, but he did not break his record of 50 1/2 hot dogs.
CNN correspondent Michael Okwu gave a preview from the Coney Island boardwalk in Brooklyn, New York, Friday morning before the contest began. He also had a chance to talk to the diminutive defending champ Kobayashi along with his larger U.S. competitors -- William "The Refrigerator" Perry and Eric "Badlands" Booker.
OKWU: There's a great deal of anticipation here. I haven't really seen the odds in Vegas yet, but I understand that Mr. Kobayashi [from Japan] is probably the odds on favorite here.
I want to take a quick shot of him right now. This is Mr. Kobayashi, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, and, of course, Eric "Badlands" Booker. You take a look at these guys, who outweigh Kobayashi by a good 300 pounds, and one wonders how this all happens.
I'm joined by [Kobayashi's] interpreter here to ask [him] a couple of quick questions.
You have a very unusual eating style. Tell us about that and tell us about how that helps you put away so many hot dogs.
KOBAYASHI (through translator): So what he does is he splits the sausages in half, chews them up, dunks his bread in the water to make it soft and drinks down the bread like water.
OKWU: Now, I understand that he also meditates before the competition, though I haven't seen him meditating this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: Yes, he does. But he'll be meditating later in his room.
OKWU: Last year, [Kobayashi consumed] 50 1/2 hot dogs in about 12 minutes. Is he going for 51 or 52 this year?
KOBAYASHI (through translator): He is here to break the record from last year.
OKWU: OK, interesting. Are you intimidated, Mr. Perry, when you hear this? What is your style going to be?
"THE REFRIGERATOR": I'm going to do it the old-fashioned way ... old school. I'm going to eat a hot dog and hey, his bun and wheat and bread and that's it. So I'm just here. I'm having fun, enjoying myself, and, hey, we've got to eat later and everything's fine.
OKWU: People, of course, will remember you from your football playing days with the Chicago Bears. How did this happen? How did you go from football to sucking down dogs?
"THE REFRIGERATOR": We all ate hot dogs in our day. Still eat 'em now. It's just something to do on the Fourth of July. [We] have a great time. Come out to Coney Island and ... watch him, see if he can break the record.
OKWU: The Chicago Bears are very American. Hot dogs are American, too.
"THE REFRIGERATOR": Well, that's the bottom line.
OKWU: This is Eric "Badlands" Booker. Mr. Booker, you are the number one U.S. qualifier. So all eyes are on you to try to dethrone the Japanese today. What is your methodology going to be?
"BADLANDS": Basically I'm going to do a style, I nicknamed it the double Japanese. It's kind of similar to Kobayashi's style, but instead of splitting the dogs in half, you know, I'm a bigger guy. Why split them in half? Just take two dogs at a time [and] wolf 'em down -- take two buns, dunk the buns, wolf 'em down one at a time and just go at it in rapid succession.
You see the headphones right here? I'm going to listen to some real fast techno music just to keep my pace. .. You hear the beats, 130 beats per minute, basically you just hear something [and] go "boom, boom, boom, boom." I'm just going to pretend that [the music] just says "eat, eat, eat, eat and just eat" and devour, conquer and destroy. And I'm going to try to do my best to keep up to Kobayashi and bring it back for the USA.
OKWU: Eric, millions of Americans want to know, is this something -- is there a lot of chewing going on or is there just gulping?
"BADLANDS": It's both. There's a lot of chewing, there's a lot of swallowing. The rule of thumb is four bites and swallow. You've just got to keep your mind focused, you know what I'm saying? When your body says stop, you've got to just use your mental toughness and intestinal fortitude to go on and be the best. I'm doing this for everybody here, all the CNN watchers, everybody in the USA. I'm just gonna bring it back home.
OKWU: A quick answer from everyone. Anyone here eaten this morning?
"BADLANDS": No. This [is] my breakfast right here.
OKWU: No one ate this morning? Just a bottle of water. There you have it. We'll be watching today as they all gear up to get in front of this table, 30 foot table. There'll be about 20 competitors from around the world, about five countries, all trying to dethrone the Japanese [Kobayashi]
OKWU: Can we talk about the weights? ... Kobayashi is 145 pounds. William "The Fridge" is about what?
"THE REFRIGERATOR": Three fifty-five.
OKWU: Three fifty-five, and you don't mind saying that on national television. I like that.
"THE REFRIGERATOR": Hey, I played anyway.