By Chris Stone
Not many people would call world champion eater Joey Chestnut a sissy.
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But that’s exactly what he called himself during a post-pork-out play-by-play Sunday afternoon in the Baked Bear World Ice-Cream Sandwich Eating Championship at Petco Park.
“If it wasn’t ice cream, I wouldn’t have slowed down,” said the 32-year-old master eater. The coldness of the ice cream was his nemesis.
“I had a big lead in the beginning, but I was being a sissy. I let the cold get to me. I let (Matt Stonie) close in,” Chestnut said of the competition before the Padres afternoon game — won by the Rockies 3-1.
Chestnut downed 25¼ chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwiches in 6 minutes.
But so did fellow San Josean Matt Stonie, 25. That led to a one-cookie eat-off.
Chestnut cleared his mouth first, and was declared the winner, which brought his world record total to 44. In turn, he slurped up a $2,000 prize while Stonie took home $1,000.
Asked about his key to victory, Chestnut gave Times of San Diego three words: Ignoring the pain.
“Every time I wanted to stop because my mouth was hurting, my head was hurting, my hand was hurting,” he said after the contest.
“I just kept pushing. There was no other option, right?”
Chestnut said: “I came here to win. Everyone was yelling at me — yeah, it was the only option.”
“My mouth is still hurting from the pain and numbness. It was a weird feeling, but I kept pushing through. I wanted to drink more, but every time you drink it slows you down. I drank just enough to keep up my pace.”
Chestnut admitted that he felt lethargic going into the competition, still recovering from Friday’s Salvation Army National Donut Day World Donut Eating Competition in Santa Monica — where he devoured 55 glazed donuts in 8 minutes.
In the last half of Sunday’s event, Chestnut kept eyeing Stonie, who was gobbling furiously to his right.
Chestnut had reason to be concerned. It was Stonie who dethroned Chestnut as champion in the 2015 Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. Chestnut regained the title the following year.
On Sunday’s eatfest, Stonie said, “We’re all friends up on stage, but at the same time, it’s a diehard competition. There’s money on the line.”
Stonie is no lightweight in the field of competitive eating.
He has records in at least 15 eating categories, including bacon (182 strips in 5 minutes), 14.5 pounds of birthday cake in 8 minutes, 10.5 pounds of frozen yogurt in 6 minutes; 255 Peeps in 5 minutes, and 20 pounds of pumpkin pie in 8 minutes, according to majorleagueeating.com.
Meanwhile, Chestnut caught the public’s attention when he defeated Takeru Kobayashi in the Nathan’s contest in 2007.
He has gone on to set records, including 54 brain tacos in 8 minutes, 30 fish tacos in 5 minutes; 141 hard-boiled eggs in 8 minutes, 47 grilled-cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes; 15 pints of vanilla ice cream in 6 minutes; 182 chicken wings in 30 minutes, and 73.5 hotdogs in 10 minutes.
Mary Bowers, a competitive eater and fashion designer from New York, described her Sunday experience.
“I just stayed focused,” she said. “I just zoned out and blocked out the crowd and the DJ and everything else going on and just focused on the ice cream.”
“I really want to warm up; I would love a pair of mittens,” Bowers said, laughing.
Competitive eater Pablo Martinez of Fresno swallowed 13 ice-cream sandwiches.
“It was awesome,” he said. “The sandwiches were so good the entire time, which is rare because in these contest, usually by a minute five or six the food starts to get annoying and repetitive.
“My hands are frozen. My mouth feels like it’s bleeding because of the chocolate chips.”
Also present were husband and wife Richard “The Locust” LeFevre, 72, and Carlene, of Henderson, Nevada — “the First Family of Competitive Eating.”
As for Chestnut, he admitted after the contest that he didn’t “feel great,” yet he hoped that he could have eaten more.
“Twenty-five? That just over eight pounds?” Chestnut said. “I have the capacity for 20 pounds.”
“There’s some room in there for some beer and hot dogs.”
But after two gorging contests in 48 hours, Chestnut knows he had enough. He had been on a liquid-only diet Saturday.
“I’m going to have to be treating my body really good this week to recover from this weekend. I’ll be all right,” he said, laying out his plan for the rest of June.
“I’ll eat healthy and then get into training for the Fourth of July.”
Of his upcoming rivals, he says on Carmen Cincotti, a 23-year-old from New Jersey: “I’m hoping he never develops his capacity. Then he’ll be trouble.”
But Chestnut has a prediction about this year’s Nathan’s contest on New York’s Coney Island, which he calls “part of Americana.”
“I’m going to get into an early lead with hot dogs and run away with it.”
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