Fast Company

By Maura Cheeks | Sept. 17, 2012, 5 p.m. (ET)

Carmelita JeterCheetah cubs and Olympic track & field athletes? The first thing you might think is that you wouldn’t dare race either of them -- and on that front you would be wise.

When U.S. track & field stars Carmelita Jeter (at right with "Lita the Cheetah") and Justin Gatlin arrived at the National Zoo on Thursday, Sept. 13, the small crowd that would have normally been gathered to see the young animals seemed to triple in size once the Olympians arrived. Stopping to pose with fans and sign autographs, Jeter and Gatlin then anxiously headed back to meet the cubs who would be named after them.

"If we raced them, we’d basically be eating dust?" remarked Jeter to one of the animal keepers at the National Zoo.

He responded with, "Basically. In the time that it took you and Justin to run and win 100 meters, that cheetah would have covered 300 meters."

To say Jeter and Gatlin did not hold back with the cubs would be an understatement. For the following 40 minutes, the two took it upon themselves to bond with their respective cubs, dubbing them "Lita the Cheetah" and "Gat the Cat." 

Having cheetah cubs named after them is just one more example of the many ways that people around the country are saying thank you to the athletes for their hard work in London. To that end, the athletes continue to be humbled by the outpouring they continue to receive.

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