Michael Phelps is a US national treasure, so when Discovery claimed he would be racing a great white shark for the premiere of Shark Week, they clearly did not mean to put the 23-time gold winner in a pool with one of the most dangerous predators in the world. For Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White, the channel instead placed a digitally rendered shark next to swimmer to simulate the "race" based on records taken with an actual shark.
"Clearly, we can't put Michael in one lane and a white shark on the far lane. We're gonna have to do a simulation," ecologist Tristan Gutteridge said at one point in the special.
Phelps himself made it clear that he would not be putting his life at risk for TV rating by getting into a pool with a shark, but this did not stop viewers from being disappointed that the whole showdown was digital.
As for the results of the simulated competition, Phelps was unable to beat one of the ocean's fastest swimmers... but not by much. The great white covered 100 metres in 36.1 seconds while the athlete swam the same distance in 38.1 seconds. The results are still pretty impressive considering that great whites can swim at speeds up to 25mph while the 32-year-old manages a maximum of 6mph.
The swimmer was also made to "race" a reef shark and a hammerhead across 50 metres. He won against the first, with a time of 18.7 seconds but the hammerhead out-swam him with a time of 15.1 seconds.