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Japan snatches top dog title from U.S.

By SCOTT NEUMAN

NEW YORK, Dec. 4 -- In what was described as one of the worst- ever upsets in the history of competitive hot dog eating, Japan's Hirofumi Nakajima Wednesday unseated defending champ Ed Krachie of New York by downing a record 23-1/4 hotdogs in 12 minutes. Critics had said putting the 5-foot-7-inch, 144-pound Nakajima up against the hulking American, who is 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 320 pounds, was a mismatch of mammoth proportions. The critics were proved wrong. Wearing a blue Reebok warm-up suit, Krachie -- who held the world record of 22 dogs -- toyed with the crowd of spectators at Nathan's Famous hot dog restaurant in midtown Manhattan as he waited for challenger Nakajima to arrive. 'I don't even consider this guy competition,' Krachie said confidently before the match. 'I'm just competing with myself to better the record.' The crowd at Nathan's gave Krachie the home table advantage, chanting 'Ed, Ed' and 'U.S.A.' and waving American flags. Meanwhile, Nakajima's only support came from a Japanese TV crew that had co- sponsored the contest. But patriotism gave way to shock when the flamboyant Krachie, standing and gesticulating wildly as he ate, was bested by the low-key Nakajima, who remained seated. 'It's amazing,' a dazed Krachie told reporters after Nakajima, 22, was awarded the coveted 'Mustard Belt' and a $2,000 prize. 'I think there's something fishy here,' said Krachie, who was recovering from a stomach ailment he blamed on a free lunch given by the Japanese.

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'They told me this guy had never eaten a hot dog before yesterday.' Veteran observers made note of the contrast in techniques between the two eaters. Krachie's method, known as 'dunking' involves dipping the hot dogs in water before scarfing them down to make the buns easier to swallow. Nakajima, a former jockey, employed a 'dry' technique in which each hot dog and bun was carefully separated and consummed separately. 'Style is style, but I didn't expect this,' said Krachie, a mechanical engineer. Krachie, 33, and his promoter vowed to go to Japan if necessary to re-take the title. Asked if he would retire or continue competitive hot dog eating, the beaming Nakajima was circumspect. 'I guess I have to continue, since now I'm the champion.'

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