The cheetah cubs at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and the U.S. Olympic sprinters have been demonstrating their speed and agility to the world, and now the fastest Americans share something else with the 3-month-old cubs: their names. In partnership with USA Track & Field, the Zoo named the cubs Carmelita and Justin after Carmelita Jeter and Justin Gatlin, who were the fastest American sprinters in the 100-meter dash Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday, Aug. 4, Jeter ran the 100-meter sprint in 10.78 seconds, winning her the silver medal. Jeter is from California and holds the record as the second-fastest woman in the 100-meter race at 10.64 seconds. On Sunday, Aug. 5, Gatlin ran the 100-meter sprint in 9.79 seconds, winning him the bronze medal. Gatlin, originally from the Bronx, trains in Florida and ran the 100-meter in the U.S. Olympic Trials faster than any man over 30 years old at 9.8 seconds.
The decision to name the cubs after the fastest Americans is part of a broader National Zoo Games campaign to celebrate the finest animal athletes. For the duration of the Olympic Games, the Zoo is posting photos, videos and fun facts showcasing the best of sport in the animal kingdom, from weightlifting ants to water polo-playing lions. Followers can track the updates on the Zoo's Facebook page and website and through the hashtag #ZooGames on Twitter. Each activity the animals participate in is an important component of the Zoo's Animal Enrichment program, which provides physically and mentally stimulating activities and environments for the Zoo's residents. Download images of the National Zoo Games from the Zoo's Flickr page.
The cheetah cubs were born April 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. They are now on exhibit at the Zoo's Cheetah Conservation Station at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. for no more than an hour at a time. As the result of human conflict, hunting and habitat loss, there are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs a vulnerable species.
About USA Track & Field
USA Track & Field (USATF) is the National Governing Body for track & field, long-distance running and race walking in the United States. USATF encompasses the world's oldest organized sports, the World's #1 Track & Field Team, the most-watched events at the Olympics, the #1 high school and junior high school participatory sport, and more than 30 million adult runners in the United States: www.usatf.org.