By Ryan Petzar
Philly.com reporter Ryan Petzar was embedded in the Takeru Kobayashi entourage at SportsRadio 94 WIP’s Wing Bowl XX.
“The truth is that if you brought me another hundred wings right now, I think I could eat them,” the newly minted Wing Bowl champion Takeru Kobayashi told me about an hour after his coronation. “Not if it was a competition, but if you brought them to me, I’d take my time. But I could fit 100 more in,” he said while patting his distended stomach.
It’s almost impossible to imagine what it must feel like to have a belly full of 337 wings (“It feels really heavy,” Kobayashi says) but to imagine another 100 on top of that is truly unfathomable.
“I don’t feel nauseated or anything,” he said. Surprising, because competitors who ate less than a fifth of what he did were standing around trashcans – just in case – long after having been eliminated. But Kobayashi was unfazed.
Just to be clear, this isn’t a regular person we’re talking about here. Kobayashi is an unstoppable eating machine. He’s tuned his body specifically to be able to accomplish such feats and his total control over his anatomy made him (at least) $20,000 richer Friday.
Almost from the absolute start of the competition, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Kobayashi would win. He jumped out to an enormous lead right away, and he was aware of that fact.
“Once I heard the score after the first round, I felt good,” he told me. “But then I heard them say that ‘Super’ Squibb’s pace was slowing down in the second round, I realized I could do this,” he said, picking confetti out of his hair.
In addition to knowing exactly how much food he can fit into himself, the man they call Kobi has conditioned his body to be able to suppress things that most people can’t under regular circumstances let alone in an eating competition.
In the middle of the second round, Kobayashi held a comfortable lead when he appeared to gag. His cheeks puffed out and his eyes became glassy. Everybody in the area noticed. It looked as if Kobayashi would become the first person to be eliminated from the contest because of vomiting -- an instant disqualification.
But he swallowed hard, jumped up and down, tapped on his throat a few times … and continued on.
“A piece of chicken got lodged in my throat and I felt like other things were going to come up,” he admitted. It would have been a massive surprise to everybody in the building to see Kobayashi eliminated that way, but by willing his body to ignore its gag-reflex, he was able to continue.
“This might take a little longer than usual to recover from this one. It might take maybe three, four, days to feel completely normal,” he said.
What happens in those three to four days?
“Nothing,” he said. “I don’t do anything. I’m going to rest and eat a little bit less than usual. I’m not going to move so much.”
Basically, the opposite of how most people spend Super Bowl weekend.
Through dozens of pictures with sponsors, VIPs, and friends, Kobayashi was clearly holding back tears of joy. Wing Bowl is probably a goof to most people. But not to Kobayashi. For him, this represented the end of months of travel, training, practice and publicity. But to Kobi, the end of the Wing Bowl signals the beginning of his next challenge.
So what, exactly, is next?
“Guinness World Record [attempt] for pizza in Tokyo,” Kobayashi said.
Heck of a way to make a living.