Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest is a Coney Island Fourth of July tradition, but this year, locals hope one of their own can take the back title.
Yasir Salem is one New Yorker who has his eye on the prize this year and believes it's time for the mustard belt trophy — usually won by international or West Coast eaters — to come back to the East Coast, he told The Wall Street Journal.
"You're starting to see a resurgence," he told the newspaper. "The way I see it competitive eating started in New York with Nathan's. New York is rising again."
The 40-year-old also is a marathon runner, so he's no stranger to competing. To prepare for the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, he's been eating a four-pound salad on a daily basis and drinking a gallon of water.
In the past, Salem's gag reflex is what he says held him back from being successful in hot dog eating contests, so he went to a hypnotherapist a few years ago for help.
"The idea of vomiting is what I found out held me back," Salem told the WSJ. "I had him construct a program for me and it hypnotized me."
California men Joey Chestnut and Matt Stonie finished No. 1 and No. 2 in last year's contest while Carmen Cincotti of South Jersey came in third place.
Chestnut was a consecutive winner from 2007-2014 before Stonie broke his streak in 2015.
"Nathan's is Coney Island at this point, and to have the belt every year across the country, it makes no sense to me," Cincotti said, according to the WSJ.
Cincotti says he has "casual eating sessions" to prepare for the contest every year. "I'll just buy doughnuts and hot dogs and just go to town on them," he told the newspaper.
"At the end of the day it's like any other professional athlete," Cincotti added. "You put the time in and practice hard and do it."
Tens of thousands of fans come out every year to Coney Island in Brooklyn to support the popular event.
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