There are new dogs in this fight.

This year’s Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest is up for grabs after sixteen-time champion Joey Chestnut was banned from the annual July 4 showdown after signing a deal with vegan protein purveyor Impossible Foods.

“With Joey out, there is a pretty big door open,” said Nick Wehry. He’s one of 14 hopefuls who will be competing in the men’s event at the famous Coney Island showdown. (Another 14 eaters will face off in the women’s event.)

To be eligible to compete, eaters must win a regional qualifying event, have been a past champion or be specially invited by Major League Eating, the organization that oversees competitive eating events.

Miki Sudo is the reigning women’s champion. PHOTO CREDIT: SHEA COMMUNICATIONS

Competitors have 10-minutes to eat as many hot dogs and buns as they can on the stage at Stillwell and Surf Avenues. Utensils and condiments are banned. Vomiting is grounds for disqualification. Any franks in a competitor’s mouth at the buzzer count towards the total, as do partial wieners.

Last year, Chestnut won by eating 62 dogs; in 2021, he set a record by scarfing 71 links. (This year, after being ousted from Nathan’s, he will be taking part in a different hot dog competition with soldiers in Fort Bliss, Texas.)

At stake is $20,000 in prize money — $10,000 each for the winners of the men’s and women’s events.

Miki Sudo, 38, claimed the women’s title in 2023, her 9th championship. She told The Post that this year “is going to be incredibly exciting” with Chestnut out.

 “I think it will be a dog fight that might even be won by a quarter of a hot dog,” said Sudo, who holds the women’s world record, inhaling 48.5 hot dogs in 10 minutes. “With Joey out, you will basically see five or six guys really really push each other.

Have a look.

Nick Wehry

Nick Wehry hopes training in the Florida humidity will give him a competitive advantage. Getty Images

Age: 35
2023 Hot Dog Eating Contest Performance:
4th place, ate 45 hot dogs
Career highlight: Setting a world record in 2021 by eating 50 hardboiled eggs in 3 minutes, 4 seconds

“This will be my seventh year competing, I am climbing,” said Wehry, who is based in Tampa, Florida. In his early years in the contest, he placed in the bottom half, but, in 2021, he came in third — his best showing to date. The past two years, he’s come in fourth.

One half of a power eating power couple — he’s engaged to Sudo after they met in the hotel gym on the morning of the hot dog contest in 2018 — Wehry competes full time, allowing him plenty of time to train.

He’s been practicing by eating as many hot dogs as he can in the muggy backyard of his Florida home.

“The humidity is 1000% and it’s been a billion degrees … the body doesn’t function super well, especially if you aren’t used to it,” he told The Post. “People forget that we aren’t just eating hot dogs, but we are pushing our bodies.”

Wehry hopes the harsh conditions will give him an advantage in Brooklyn, where the forecast for Thursday is in the early 80s.

“It is going to make Fourth of July on Coney Island feel like a piece of cake,” he said.

Geoffrey Esper

Geoffrey Esper has placed second, behind the Joey Chestnut, the past three years. courtesy Major League Eating

Age: 49
2023 Hot Dog Eating Contest Performance:
2nd, with 49 hot dogs
Career highlight: Consuming 21 pounds of strawberry shortcake in 8 minutes in June 2023 to set his third record with strawberry shortcake

For the past three years, the Oxford, Massachusetts, high-school teacher has come in second to Chestnut, so this could finally be his time.

“If I get second place again I’m going to be like, ‘ah, not again,’” he told The Post. “It’s a lot more pressure, I’ll tell you that.”

Given his teaching job, he doesn’t have as much time to train as some of his competitors, but he’s made up for it with his strong work ethic and mastery of a common frank-feasting technique.

“I pick up two hot dogs at once and then eat them, and then I eat the buns,” he said. “I put the hot dogs side by side, and while I do that, I dunk the first bun, and sometimes I will also squeeze it to get the water out.” 

He notes that the hot dog event, compared to other competitive eating, is as much about speed as it is stomach capacity.

“This isn’t as easy as other races like strawberry shortcakes where whoever has the biggest stomach wins,” he said. “You have to concentrate on what you are doing to eat so much.”  

Chestnut’s exit has thrust him into the spotlight, a position he doesn’t love.

“These other guys go nuts in front of the camera,” he said. “I am a bit more shy, so it’s more intimidating for me.”  

James Webb

James Webb hails from Australia, where hot dogs are hard to come by. AP

Age: 35
2023 Hot Dog Eating Contest Performance:
3rd, with 47 hot dogs
Recent highlight: Last month, he set a record by downing 70 glazed donuts in 8 minutes

The full-time competitive eater from Sydney, Australia, holds world records for chicken wings and donuts, but this is only his third hot dog eating contest.

“As an Australian, we don’t really eat hot dogs,” he told The Post. “This has been a massive culture shock and learning experience for me.”  

The secret to his success is going to the gym as much as possible.  “I do weight training morning and night every day to stimulate hunger,” he said.

Frankfurters are hard to come by in Oz, so he had to travel to the US to prepare.

He flew to Dallas, Texas, and got an Airbnb a few weeks ago to start working with Nathan’s Hot Dogs ahead of the holiday contest.

“I go to Walmart, empty the shelves and cook up a storm in the backyard,” he told The Post. “The last four days all I’ve eaten is hot dogs. I just practice, practice, practice,”

Don’t count on him sneaking any franks with him on the plane home, though. He’s burnt out on barbecued wieners.

“I, 100%, will not be touching a hot dog until this time next year.” 

Patrick Bertoletti

Patrick Bertoletti holds several records for eating pickled jalapeno peppers. Getty Images

Age: 39
2023 Hot Dog Eating Contest Performance:
Didn’t Compete 
Career highlight: Slurping down a record 39 dozen oysters in 8 minutes in New Orleans in June 2011

The Chicago native, who goes by the nickname “deep dish,” has been setting world records with everything from blueberry pie to corned beef and cabbage for nearly two decades.

The longtime competitive eater has taken part in the Nathan’s contest on-and-off since 2007, placing as high as third place in 2010. After some time away from the Coney Island boardwalk, he’s back this year with his eyes on the prize.

Gideon Oji

At 6-foot-9, Gideon Oji is the tallest person in Major League Eating. Getty Images

Age: 32
2023 Hot Dog Eating Contest Performance:
6th place with 36 hot dogs 
Career highlight: Consuming 1.3125 gallons of New Mexico green chile stew in 6 minutes in 2016

Oji is 6-foot-9 and weighs 225 pounds, making him one of the tallest competitive eaters on the circuit. (No surprise, the Morrow, Georgia, native played college basketball at Clayton State University.)

He’s currently ranked 7th in the world in overall competitive eating and has excelled at some unique events, eating two pounds of bologna in 52 seconds and crunching through 25.5 bags of chopped kale salad in 8 minutes.

Darrien Thomas

Darrien Thomas is making a bid to be the second Canadian to win at Coney Island. Darrien Thomas/ Instagram

Age: 25
2023 Hot Dog Eating Contest Performance
9th with 27.5 hot dogs 
Career highlight: Winning Smoke’s Poutinerie’s amateur poutine-eating contest in 2017

Could a Canadian actually take home a coveted prize for a time-honored American tradition? Thomas certainly hopes so. In facts, he’s only the second Canadian to ever qualify for the competition since it started in 1916. 

Standing just 5-foot-5 and weighing 155 pounds, he is certainly not as large as other competitors. But, what he lacks in size, he makes up for with technical skill and an ability to dunk a hot dog bun in water at rapid velocity. He’s also known for his speedy abilities shelling everything from pistachios to crayfish. 

Thomas got his start at the age of 16 when he jumped into a pizza-eating contest in Ontario after one of the contestants didn’t show up. Now, nine years later, he’s ranked 12th in the world and no. 1 in Canada.

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