Michael Phelps Races Great White Shark, Faces Backlash

This past Sunday, Discovery Channel’s Shark Week started off with what was supposed to be a bang. Michael Phelps, Olympian hero, was said to be racing a Great White shark in a special called Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White. Most assumed that Phelps would be swimming right next to a Great White, but were sadly disappointed when they found out what was really going to happen. About 40 minutes into the special, when viewership was at it’s peak, featured scientist Tristian Gutteridge explained how the race would go down. “Clearly, we can’t put Michael in one lane and a white shark on the far lane. We’re going to have to do a simulation.”

Fans everywhere felt slighted when they learned that Phelps would actually be swimming next to a CGI shark, put together with scientific data taken from actual sharks. The simulation digitally showed how fast an actual shark would be swimming at average speed. In a 100m race, the computer animated shark beat Phelps by 2 seconds.

After people expressed their disappointment on social media, Phelps took to Facebook Live to address the criticism of the race. “Everybody wants to try to pick on something or say something or complain about something. I had fun racing a shark and seeing those animals up-close and personal,” Phelps said. “If someone actually wants to get in the ocean and race a side-by-side with a great white, go ahead — you aren’t going to get the shark to swim in a straight line — and it would be interesting to see. We’ll leave it at that.” Phelps emphasized that he didn’t mislead fans, and made it clear that he wouldn’t be next to an actual shark. “Some people just decide not to listen to some of the things that we do and that’s not my fault that you don’t do that,” he added. “It’s pretty easy to open up your ears and listen to either what the TV is saying, what announcers are saying or what I’m saying in interviews.”

Discovery Channel also released a statement regarding the race, defending themselves and Phelps by insisting that they didn’t mislead anyone. “In Phelps vs Shark, we enlisted world-class scientists to take up the challenge of making the world’s greatest swimmer competitive with a Great White. The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun. All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side by side race.”

Whether it was real shark or not, we can all agree that the outcome was disappointing either way. Why? Because the most decorated Olympian of all time lost to a freakin’ shark.