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Previewing the 2014 Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest

Joey Chestnut is the man to beat once again as the Hot Dog Eating contest returns on July 4, from Coney Island.

Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest July 4, 2012 in the Coney Island section of New York
Joey Chestnut is the man to beat once again as the Hot Dog Eating contest returns on July 4, from Coney Island. Credit: Getty Images

What's more American than gathering in sweltering heat in Coney Island, New York to watch professional competitive eaters battle to eat five dozen (0r more) hot dogs in a ten minute span?

Nothing, that's what.

It's actually a remarkable feat to witness. The combatants exercise an incredible ability to just eat, to mentally push through the wall of pain that tells normal people it's time to stop eating. And they do it every year on the Fourth of July at the (arguable) birthplace of the hot dog.

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Here are the guys to watch for when you tune to ESPNNews at noon (the eating doesn't really start until 12:40).

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut

The preview could end here. His nickname is Jaws because sometimes it looks like he can just unhinge his. Last year at the event, Chestnutbroke his own world by eating 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. That isn't a typo. That's how many he ate. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the world for competitive eating and holds more than seven world records -- including deep fried asparagus (12.8 pounds in 10 minutes), hard boiled eggs (141 in eight minutes) and matzoh balls (78 in eight minutes).

Matt "Megatoad" Stonie

The No. 1 eater in the world, he is likely the best chance of an upset over Chestnut in Thursday's contest. He is relatively new on the scene (he set his first record, Lobster Rolls, in 2010) and weighs just 120 points at 5-foot-8. His eating records include dumplings, gyros and birthday cake (he ate 5 pounds of it in less than nine minutes).

Tim “Eater X” Janus

He covers his face and eats with a sense of mystery, but he is motivated, and always put up a good fight in Coney Island. Once, he said: "I'd eat anything. One of my goals is to eat everything in the world. I'd eat a roll of pennies. I hope we make contact with beings from other planets. I'd eat an alien." Can he eat 70 hot dogs Thursday? it's doubtful.

Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas

She's pretty much the female Joey Chestnut. Though she won't ever break the 60-dog mark she dominates the female competition. All three contests that awarded a first female prize have been won by Thomas. She has more than 20 eating records at the moment, and won her first big national title at the 2004 Wing Bowl in Philadelphia.

Follow Philadelphia sports editor Evan Macy on twitter @Evan_Macy. On the Fourth, he will probably eat two Nathan's hot dogs.

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