|Usain Bolt, the fastest human sprinter in the world, is no match for a cheetah. (Mike Strobel/QMI Agency/Files)
Apparently, all those world class athletes competing at the London Olympics have nothing on cheetahs, falcons and the dreaded snakehead fish.
A well-timed and light-hearted comparison of the extraordinary athleticism of humans and animals that appears in the latest issue of the Veterinary Record reveals some fascinating facts.
Authored by Prof. Craig Sharp from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at England's Brunel University, the study highlights a range of animals whose speed and strength easily trumps that of our most elite athletes.
"Humans can run at a maximum speed of 10.4 metres per second, which gives them the edge over the dromedary camel. But only just, as these animals can run at a top speed of 35.3 km/h or 9.8 metres/second," he claims.
A cheetah is around twice as fast as the world's top sprinters at 29 metres/second, and the pronghorn antelope also puts in a very respectable 24.6 metres/second.
Birds would win a few gold medals too, says Sharp.
Peregrine falcons can reach speeds of 259 km/h, while ducks and geese rival cheetahs, with speeds of 103 km/h in level flight.
Human beings have adapted fantastically well to marathons and long distance running, says Sharp, but they might find it hard to beat camels, which can maintain speeds of 16 km/h for over 18 hours, or Siberian huskies.
For the record, pardon the pun, Sharp says Bolt ran 100 metres in 9.58 seconds while a cheetah ran the same distance in 5.8 seconds.
The Jamaican sprinter ran 200 metres in 19.19 seconds but a cheetah covered the same distance in 6.9 seconds, a racehorse did it in 9.98 seconds, and a greyhound in 11.2 seconds.
In the long jump, a red kangaroo has leapt 12.8 metres compared to the 8.95 metres Mike Powell achieved. Its high jump of 3.1 metres exceeds Javier Sotomayor's at 2.45, who is also trumped by the snakehead fish, which can leap 4 metres out of the water.