Animals Make Strong Athletic Contenders
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
As the medal race unfolds, a recent article in the Veterinary Record points out that an Olympic squad put forth by the animal kingdom would outcompete every nation on Earth.
Perhaps in honor of his country’s hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games, Professor Craig Sharp from Brunel University highlights both wild and selectively-bred ‘sport’ animals that would be the class of certain competitions being held in London.
Usain Bolt might hold the current title of World’s Fastest Man, but he would be no match for the planet’s fastest land animal—the cheetah. Bolt’s 100-meter time of 9.58 seconds may never be topped by another human, but the big cat can do it in 5.8 seconds. The Jamaican sprinter’s 200-meter time of 19.19 seconds shows he can keep up the same blistering pace for double the distance, yet the cheetah’s time of 6.9 seconds proves that at the 100-meter mark, it still hasn’t hit its top speed!
But, cheetahs have an unfair advantage because of that extra set of legs, you might say. Even with a “two legs only” restriction, the animal kingdom’s entrant into these races can leave Bolt in its dust. While its running technique might mirror that of Steven Seagal, the North African ostrich can reach a top speed of 40 mph compared to the human peak recorded velocity of 23.4 mph.
Sprinting events aren’t the competitions where animal athletes would excel, according to Sharp. Patrick Makau of Kenya ran the most recent record-setting marathon of 2 hours and 3 minutes at the Berlin Marathon in September 2011. Animal competitors would win this event as well with endurance horses able to complete the grueling race in around 1 hour 18 minutes.
Human top speeds can eclipse that of camels, which max out at 22 mph. However, the “ships of the desert” can maintain speeds of 10 mph for over 18 hours, making them favorites over most humans in marathons and beyond.
Many animals also posses strength that cannot be matched by any human. Iran’s Hossein Rezazadeh holds the current weightlifting record at 580 pounds, compared to the African elephant, which can lift 660 pounds with its trunk. While that gap might be close, human weightlifters aren’t even the strongest primates; gorillas have been known to lift almost 2000 pounds. Sharp neglected to mention if the gorilla’s weight lift was done by either the snatch or clean and jerk technique.
A recent New York Times article by sports statistician Nate Silver discussed how track and field records fall less frequently than swimming records. In fact, Mike Powell’s long jump record of 29.35 feet (8.95 meters) was set back in 1991. That 21-year-old mark would be easily smashed by a red kangaroo long jumper. The marsupial has been known to leap distances of over 39.38 feet (12 meters).
Despite all the fantastical achievements that animal competitors could set at the 2012 Olympics, Sharp admits that humans are more versatile athletes than any one animal.
It also seems safe to assume that humans would dominate their brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom at most team sports.