Who’s Faster? How Olympians Measure Up to the Animal Kingdom
Text by Kelly Ruane
As the Olympic torch draws closer to Beijing, where the beacon will signal the beginning of the ancient games on August 8, athletes from around the world are arriving in China for their final days of preparation. And if this year’s Olympic trials were any indicator, we will see some amazing feats of athleticism—and broken world records.
While these records only compare how fast, strong, or agile humans are against each other, imagine if we compared our abilities to the other inhabitants of this big blue marble we call Earth.
The fastest 100-meter freestyle swim by a human was clocked by Alain Bernard of France at 47.5 seconds on March 22 at the European Championships. That time translates to nearly 5 mph, a slow crawl compared to the marine world. According to the Reefquest Center for Shark Research, Bernard could out-swim an eel (2.4 mph) and barely keep up with a sea trout (5.4 mph). But when it comes to the big players, no human on Earth would win a race with the bottlenose dolphin (17 mph), the mako shark (31 mph) or the killer whale (34.5 mph). To check out what speeding along on the back on a seal looks like, watch National Geographic’s Crittercam.
The world record for swiftest 100-meter sprint was set on May 31 by Usain Bolt of Jamaica at 9.72 seconds. Convert that to mileage and this man can run an astounding 23 mph. Pair him against a chicken, squirrel, or black mamba snake and he will win every time; their speeds clock in at 9, 12 and 20 mph respectively. Compare Bolt to a grizzly bear or a house cat (both can run up to 30 mph) and he is left in the dirt. Not to mention a lion (50 mph) or a cheetah (70 mph).
But according to scientists at the University of Manchester, who have calculated the running speed of the Tyrannosaurus Rex at 18 mph, Bolt could outrun the 6.6-ton megabeast. To find out more land animals speeds.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Javier Sotomayor of Cuba is the world’s highest jumper with a lofty 8-feet leap in 1993. If Sotomayor were 6 feet tall, his jump would equate to 1.3 times his height, whereas the spittlebug (the world’s greatest jumper) can jump 100 times its height, or 28 inches. That’s equivalent to a human jumping over a 690-foot building. Want to learn more about the spittlebug?
But just when it seems that humans can’t compete with the rest of the animal kingdom, just remember: we have planes, trains and automobiles that can take us faster and higher than any animal alive.