1. ITV Report

Is Usain Bolt faster than a cheetah?

Jamaica's Usain Bolt celebrates helping his team win the Men's 100m Relay Final and set a new World Record. Photo: Adam Davy/EMPICS Sport

Three-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt may move like lightening for a human, but he still trails behind some of nature's top sprinters.

The Jamaican's 2009 record-breaking 100 metre dash in 9.58 seconds saw him reach an estimated top speed of 27.45mph.

But cheetahs have been known to run at 64mph - more than twice as fast - while the pronghorn antelope can attain 55mph, the greyhound 43mph, and the North African ostrich 40mph.

Olympic and world sprint champion Bolt poses with adopted cheetah 'Lightening Bolt' at the KWS headquarters in Nairobi. Credit: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

If Bolt has been pitted against a cheetah in the 2009 World Championships in Berlin, he wouldn't have stood a chance.

One of the cats has been clocked running 100 metres in just 5.8 seconds - and 200 metres in a mere 6.9 seconds. While it took Bolt 19.19 seconds to cover a 200 metre distance.

The comparisons, reported in the Veterinary Record, also include some humbling statistics for other athletes:

  • Swimming: The sailfish can reach a swimming speed of 67mph, which makes multi-Gold-Medal winner Michael Phelps look positively pedestrian. The highest speed he has managed is 4.7mph.
USA's Michael Phelps during the Men's 200m Butterfly. Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Archive
  • Long Jump: A red kangaroo has leaped 12.8 metres, compared with the 8.95 metres achieved by American Mike Powell in Tokyo in 1991.
Mike Powell, USA at the Barcelona Olympic Games 1992. Credit: Phil O'Brien/EMPICS Sport
  • High Jump: The same kangaroo's high jump of 3.1 metres easily outclassed the 2.45 metres managed by Cuban record holder Javier Sotomayor in 1993.
Javier Sotomayor from Cuba in action at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Credit: Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Professor Craig Sharp, from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University wrote:

In conclusion, 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' (faster, higher, stronger) is the Olympic motto, but if we allowed the rest of the animal kingdom into the Games... we could not offer much competition.

He added: "At least human beings are physically the most versatile single species, which is what the Games display overall."

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