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Cheetah Cubs to be Named After Olympic Sprinters
Two three-month-old cheetah cubs seen at the Smithsonian's National Zoo on July 23, 2012. The cubs survived a difficult birth and are being hand-raised by zoo staff.
Credit: Jen Zoon, Smithsonian's National Zoo

With the 2012 London Olympics beginning tomorrow, the world will be watching the fastest athletes on Earth. But as fast as Olympic sprinters are, they've got nothing on cheetahs.

Cheetahs are the world's fastest animal, able to run up to 70 mph (113 kph).

The Smithsonian's National Zoo will celebrating their finest "animaletes" during the two-week duration of the Olympics, and as part of that campaign, the zoo will be naming their two three-month-old cheetah cubs after American sprinters.

The cubs — a male and a female — will be named after the fastest American male and fastest American female athletes in the Olympics 100-meter dash. The possible female names are Carmelita, Tianna and Allyson, and the males candidates are Justin, Tyson and Ryan.

Other animal athletes to be celebrated at the zoo include weightlifting ants and lions playing water polo.

The cheetah pair were born on April 23 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., and survived a difficult birth. The male cub was born to first-time cheetah mom Ally, who abandoned the cub, which is common for first-time mothers under human care, the zoo said in a statement. After giving birth to the m ale cub, Ally remained in labor, and when she stopped having contractions hours later, veterinarians performed a Cesarean section — a procedure rarely used on cheetahs and one that cubs rarely survive.

Three cubs were delivered, but only the female cub survived. She and her brother have been hand-reared since birth and moved to the National Zoo on May 18.

The cubs will be on exhibit starting July 28, where visitors will be able to see them running around their yard. The cubs will only be out for an hour at most at first.

This story was provided by OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to LiveScience.