This Week’s Creature Feature ... Fast, Faster, Fastest

Cheetahs named to honor America’s fastest man and woman

On top of their Olympic medals, America’s fastest man and woman have another cause for pride. They’re the namesakes of two of the world’s fastest animals, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s cheetah twins born April 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.
    Girl cub Carmelita is named in honor of Carmelita Jeter, the fastest American in the 100-meter dash. On Saturday, Aug. 4, Jeter ran the 100 meter in 10.78 seconds, winning silver. The California speedster holds the 100-meter record as the second-fastest woman: 10.64 seconds.
    Boy cub Justin is named in honor of sprinter Justin Gatlin. On Sunday, Aug. 5, Gatlin ran the 100-meter in 9.79 seconds, earning the bronze medal. Gatlin ran the 100-meter in the U.S. Olympic Trials faster than any man over 30 years old at 9.8 seconds.
    But even with those times, cats smoke humans. National Geographic magazine has clocked 11-year-old Cincinnati Zoo cheetah Sarah at 5.95 seconds on a 100-meter course certified by USA Track & Field.
    That pace leaves even gold medalist Usain Bolt in the dust: His 100-meter Olympic race lasted 9.63 seconds.
    You don’t have to travel to London to see these young runners. Carmelita and Justin Cheetah — members of a vulnerable species numbering only 7,500 to 10,000 in the wild — are on exhibit at the National Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station at 10am and 1pm.