(Cincinnati.com) -- Olympic sprinters on Sunday will vie for the title of world's fastest human, but they could never keep up with speedy Sarah.
Sarah is an 11-year-old cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden - and the world's fastest land mammal.
Six weeks ago at the zoo's Mast Farm in Clermont County, with a camera crew from National Geographic Magazine capturing her every move, Sarah broke her own world speed record for land mammals.
Chasing a fluffy dog toy lure, she raced 100 meters in 5.95 seconds. That shattered her 2009 record of 6.13 seconds, also set at Mast Farm, a breeding facility for cheetahs. Her top speed this time around: 61 mph.
Eat your heart out, Usain Bolt. The Jamaican sprinter holds the world record for humans in the 100 meters: 9.58 seconds. His top speed is a shade under 28 mph.
Sarah ran on a course certified by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field. She was clocked by GHG Timing, a company that times human races.
And while there is no official record-keeping organization when it comes to cheetah speeds, news of a record spreads fast in the zoo community. Sarah made worldwide headlines in 2009 when she surpassed the record set by a South African cheetah.
Her latest record run occurred while National Geographic Magazine collaborated with the zoo on a special project, which is why the zoo couldn't announce the feat right away.
Editor-in-chief Chris Johns said Wednesday that he's been fascinated by the running ability of cheetahs since seeing one make a kill in Africa 24 years ago. "The grace, the languid movement of a cheetah, is simply astonishing," he said.
He's long wanted to do a photo spread that illustrates the science and mechanics that make cheetahs the world's fastest land mammal. "Now, we've got the technology to do it," he said.
The magazine mounted a special high-tech camera on a fast-moving sled, a first-of-its-kind effort to capture the movements of cheetahs, Johns said. The story, with dozens of photos - including a large pull-out - will appear in the November issue.
"It was a little nerve-wracking, because you want to do the animals justice," Johns said. "You want to get great photographs that really speak to how beautiful and remarkable they are. I'm really happy with the results."
Johns said Cincinnati was the obvious choice for the shoot. The zoo is well known for its work with cheetahs. What's more, Johns is longtime friends with Cathryn Hilker, founder of the zoo's Cat Ambassador Program, which takes cheetahs into schools.
The zoo's Angel Fund - Angel was the first cat in Hilker's program - has contributed more than $1 million to support cheetah conservation in Africa.
The number of cheetahs in the wild has dropped from about 100,000 in 1900 to an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 today, the zoo said. But if conservation efforts continue, "there's every chance there could be wild cheetahs 100 years from now," zoo director Thane Maynard said.
Sarah's world speed record can help draw attention to such efforts. For that reason alone, her achievement seems worthy of a gold medal. Maynard, though, said she'd probably prefer a meaty snack.