Michael Phelps Didn't Actually Race A Shark And Fans Are Steamed

Adam Pretty  Getty Images

In lane one was one of the fastest swimmers on earth and the most decorated Olympian in history; in lane two the ocean's most feared predator.

Viewers tuned in to the Discovery Channel on Sunday night to see Phelps pitted against three computer generated sharks - a hammerhead, a reef shark and a great white.

And don't worry - he actually wasn't in the water with them, it was done with special effects.

"Honestly, my first thought when I saw the shark was, 'There's very little chance for me to beat him, '" Phelps said. So, talk about false advertising.

The Discovery Channel billed it as "Phelps vs Shark, Great Gold vs Great White".

He swam in its natural habitat off the coast of South Africa in 56-degree waters.

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And they then superimposed an image of the shark on footage of Phelps swimming in the ocean. With all the build-up, research and training, it seemed as though the final product would result in a semi-real showdown. "We're gonna have to do a simulation", notes the Washington Post. Let's just say I am not alone in my feelings. She tweeted a picture of Phelps with his angry "game face" before the Brazil Olympics: "Realizing we gotta get through an hour of science for this actual race". A white shark averages around 36 seconds per 100M.

When he took to Twitter himself after the show aired, Phelps declined to address any of the unmet expectations. Either being the best swimmer of all time isn't as lucrative as we previously believed or he is really, really bored in his retirement.

The fastest unaided speed of a human is around 6 to 7.5 miles/hr, while a Great White can reach 24.8 miles/hr.

The promotions worked. Swimming fans, shark fans, Phelps fans, and viewers who just wanted to see what would happen made a date to watch the event. You may remember "Eaten Alive" when a guy didn't actually get eaten by a snake as promised.

Phelps had recently explained one of the difficulties of trying to set up a real race with a shark, telling US breakfast show Good Morning America: "Trying to get a (Great) White, for example, to swim up to 25 miles-per-hour in a straight mile can be tough..."

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