NEW YORK (AP)—Even as he missed weigh-in, eating champion Takeru Kobayashi was telling media in his native Japan that he wanted to compete in the Coney Island Fourth of July hot dog contest. Contestants speculated that the six-time champ would make a surprise appearance.
And his publicist said Kobayashi planned to attend the annual Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest in the hopes of putting on a free eating demonstration for the crowd on the Brooklyn boardwalk.
Instead, Kobayashi surprised everyone Sunday by trying to crash the contest after Joey "Jaws" Chestnut gobbled his way to a fourth consecutive championship. He jumped onstage, wrestled with police and was arrested.
"Let him eat! Let him eat!" the crowd chanted as officers handcuffed the world's No. 3 professional eater, dubbed "The Tsunami."
Kobayashi, 32, did not compete in the Fourth of July event because he refused to sign a contract with Major League Eating, the fast food equivalent of the NFL. On his Japanese-language blog, he said he wanted to be free to enter contests sanctioned by other groups.
But a few days ago, he told Japan's Kyodo News: "I really want to compete in the (Coney Island) event."
Wearing a black T-shirt that said "Free Kobi," Kobayashi mingled with the crowd Sunday, standing inside a police-barricaded pen just under the stage. When the eating ended, he slipped up the stage stairs.
Security officers appeared and tried to usher him off. He grabbed a metal police barricade with both hands, clutching it tightly as the officers pulled at him. Finally, they dragged him down the stairs, with Kobayashi resisting.
He was expected to spend the night in jail awaiting an appearance in Brooklyn Criminal Court on charges of resisting arrest, trespassing and obstructing governmental administration.
"There's a contract dispute, so they weren't giving him his freedom," said Kobayashi's interpreter and publicist, Maggie James.
She said Kobayashi, who moved to New York from Japan in March, only eats hot dogs when training. Otherwise, she said, "he eats healthy, stays away from carbs and fat — and from the grease of hot dogs."
Chestnut downed 54 hot dogs in 10 minutes to win the contest televised live on ESPN.
He was disappointed with his performance, despite claiming the bejeweled, mustard-yellow belt plus a $20,000 purse. The 26-year-old from San Jose, Calif., was aiming for a record 70 dogs in 10 minutes. Last year, he ate 68 dogs against Kobayashi's 64.
"I was dehydrated going in," he told The Associated Press, explaining that he did not drink enough liquids the day before because he was striving for an emptier stomach.
After witnessing the drama involving Kobayashi, Chestnut said, "I feel bad for him."
As a handcuffed Kobayashi was led from Brooklyn's 60th Precinct to a waiting cruiser that took him to jail, one Coney Island resident shouted: "You've got to be kidding! They locked him up?"
Others yelled, "Free Kobi!"
Major League Eating: http://www.ifoce.com
(This version corrects to 'jumped' instead of 'jumping' in third paragraph.)