Eating champion freed after a night in prison

Japanese eating champion Takeru Kobayashi, arrested at a Fourth of July hot dog-eating event in New York, was freed yesterday after a night in jail, looking a little weary and saying he was hungry.

Kobayashi, wearing a T-shirt bearing the message "Free Kobi", was released by a Brooklyn judge after he pleaded not guilty. The 32-year-old said he had had only a sandwich and some milk while in jail.

A contract dispute had kept Kobayashi out of Sunday's international hot dog eating Contest, but he showed up anyway.

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"I was there as a spectator, just to cheer on my buddies," he said through an interpreter outside court. Fans chanted for him, and "in the heat of it, I jumped on the stage, hoping they would let me eat."

His attorney, Mario Romano, said his client was waved up onstage after spectators began chanting "Let him eat!"

"Shortly after that, he was grabbed from behind by officers," Mr Romano said.

Kobayashi was charged with obstruction, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Joey "Jaws" Chestnut of California won by downing 54 hot dogs in ten minutes.