Michael Phelps, the most celebrated Olympian in history and 28-time Olympic medalist was racing as part of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week. To avoid a celebrity being eaten on live television, the shark was computer-generated, with its time based on the speed of its real-life counterparts through the water. Because humans struggle to reach speeds of more than 5.5mph in the water, while sharks can easily reach 25mph, Phelps was given a little help. He was outfitted with a wetsuit to reduce drag and a monofin as a stand-in for a shark’s hugely powerful tail.
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Phelps’s best time over 100m in competition is 47.51sec. With the fin and wetsuit he managed to complete the course in 38.1 but the “shark” came in two seconds faster. “Honestly, the first thought that went through my head when I saw the shark, there’s probably very little chance for me to beat him,” said Phelps.
The Discovery Channel’s title for the show – Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White – left some viewers disappointed that a real shark was not featured in the race. “I honestly feel so robbed that I just watched an hour of a stupid show to see Michael Phelps race a FAKE shark. #fakenews,” wrote one viewer, on Twitter.