07/04/2007 at 01:40 PM EDT
Hot dog history was made this Fourth of July, with Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., shattering records – including his own – and winning the Yellow Mustard Belt at the 2007 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, Brooklyn.
At Wednesday's midday match, the 23-year-old civil-engineering student beat six-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi, 29, of Japan, by downing a record-breaking 66 dogs.
Kobayashi ate 63 dogs. In the final 120 seconds of the 12-minute competition the competitors appeared to be an adrenaline surging jaw-to-jaw tie – until Chestnut won.
"It's time it came back to America ... on the Fourth of July," Chestnut, draped in the Stars and Stripes and still catching his breath, said after claiming the title.
Last year, Kobayashi set the Nathan's Coney Island contest record by chomping down 53.75 dogs and buns, a benchmark he and Chestnut easily bypassed this year.
But even more impressive, perhaps, is that both competitive eaters broke a world's record set by Chestnut only last month – 59.5 hot dogs in 12 minutes – at an Arizona regional qualifying event in anticipation of Coney.
Though there had been talk that Kobayashi, who announced last week he had been diagnosed with arthritis of the jaw
, might not participate this year, Chestnut said that once it was clear his rival would be in the game
, "I had to come in and push much harder than the human body could handle, and make my body work for me."
Asked immediately after his victory when he might be ready to face his next frank, Chestnut replied, "If I needed to eat one right now, I could."
Third-place winner Patrick Bertoletti, of Chicago, downed 49 dogs and dedicated his game to Nicky Hilton, sister of Paris Hilton
, because, he said, the younger sibling doesn't get as much publicity as the older hotel heiress.
To prepare for Wednesday's heat, Chestnut told ESPN, which broadcast the contest live, that he'd eaten no solid food for two days but drank about a gallon of water the morning of the event.