Skip to main content
Animal Athletes

Human athletes might be battling it out for medals at the Olympic Games in Japan this month, but here at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, we have our own incredible athletes to celebrate: our animals!

Who can leap the furthest? Climb the highest? Who’s the fastest swimmer, the cleanest diver, the most agile? Check out our “gold medal” list for the winners – we might even have a couple of honorable mentions for effort!


Swimming – Shark

As top ocean predators, sharks are a natural for swimming gold. Using their tail to add thrust, some species can reach up to 30mph underwater.

Synchronized swimming – Puffins

One of the few birds to win a swimming gold, puffins dive to find fish, holding their breath for up to two minutes. Ours do look impressive when they plunge or paddle together.

Diving – Penguins

Well, it’s not exactly a 10-meter platform inward three-and-a-half pike. But our penguins are naturals in water, where they hunt for fish.

Gymnastics – Lar gibbons

Who can swing the highest? Climb ropes the fastest? Hang upside down with one foot? It helps to have a tail, but lar gibbons can swing up to 26 feet between branches – while singing!

Climbing – Tamandua

Who needs a rope and harness when you have a tail? Our tamanduas win in the bouldering event – but they can also climb trees (and keepers) in search of food. Bonus points for carrying your baby too.

Distance running – Red wolf

Wolves are hunters and travel far for prey. They can run up to 50 miles per day with long legs, a perfectly-balanced body and tireless stride.

Long jump – Clouded leopard

Clouded leopards love trees: they hide in them, hunt in them, even sleep in them. They can also leap between them – up to 15 feet from branch to branch. Easy gold!

Balance beam – Lynx

Lynxes have wide feet with spreadable toes to walk on deep snow – but they come in handy for balancing too. Our lynx Jasper finds it easy to walk on branches, walls, even windowsills as he gets daily exercise!


Water polo – Polar bear

It’s a team of one, but Blizzard sure puts in a lot of effort playing with enrichments in the water. And with a polar bear, who’s going to argue about the winner?

Relay – Domestic dog

Like many domestic dogs, Herald is really good at bringing objects. Now he just needs to convince his keepers to make up a relay team…