Michael Phelps Raced a Great White Shark for ‘Shark Week’ – And Lost (Video)

It wasn’t a real shark, but we still wondered if he would win


Even Michael Phelps has a limit.

In the lead-up to Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week,” the network had been teasing a race between the Olympic gold medalist and a Great White Shark. Could one of the fastest swimmers on the planet go up against Phelps?

The answer, according to “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White,” is yes. Holding 39 world records and 23 Olympic gold medals won’t save you if you go up against a Great White.

While the race was — unfortunately for many viewers — mostly CGI (guess you can’t have a human get that close to a Great White on TV), it did showcase what a race between the two could look like.

“Clearly, we can’t put Michael in one lane and a shark in the far lane. We have to do simulation. We’ll use our speed data that we’ve (collected) in all our testing,” said Dr. Tristan Guttridge, the scientist leading the effort.

Phelps swam in a 100-meter contest with a wetsuit and a mono-fin designed specifically for the event (in order to simulate a shark’s swimming). He swam in freezing waters off Mossel Bay in South Africa.

As for the shark, researchers developed a way to record its swimming time. That basically involved a guy riding a water bike with bait attached as a Great White trailed behind him.

In the end, the CGI shark out-swam Phelps by two seconds — 36.1 vs. 38.1. In an Olympic pool, that would be a humiliating defeat but out in the ocean, it’s probably fine.

Phelps is fine with it too, especially considering the water he was swimming in was freezing. He’ll do better next time, he says.