In the face of public outcry, Michael Phelps is standing by his Discovery Shark Week special, which saw the Olympic gold medalist lose a race to a CGI shark on Sunday.
In a Facebook video posted on Tuesday, Phelps called the experience “unbelievable,” adding, “this is something that I always wanted to do.”
“The shark experience was unbelievable,” the swimming phenomena said in the lengthy video, which touched on a variety of topics.
Addressing a commenter who was seemingly disappointed in the race, which aired Sunday, Phelps said, “I’m sorry you feel that way. For me, this was something that I always wanted to do, and I was honored to be able to do it.”
Discovery’s race between Phelps and a great white shark disappointed many viewers after they realized that the Olympic gold medalist wasn’t, in fact, racing side-by-side with a live shark.
In an apparent message to those who might have felt duped, Phelps said, “You can believe whatever you want. Everything was either presented on air during multiple interviews that I did about Shark Week or the beginning of the show.”
In the wake of the backlash, Discovery stood up for the special, which saw Phelps pitted against — and losing to — a CGI shark, saying that the network delivered what it promised.
“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,” Discovery said in a statement provided to TheWrap on Tuesday. “All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side by side race. During Michael’s pre-show promotion, as well as within the first two minutes of ‘Phelps vs. Shark,’ this message was clear and we are thrilled with the audience and the engagement around the world.”
While the safety hazards of putting Phelps alongside a shark in the water should probably be obvious, many viewers registered their disappointment as the reality of the situation became clear.
“Don’t say Phelps is racing a shark if you’re not going to put him against an actual shark #PhelpsVsShark #SharkWeek,” cautioned one critic on Twitter.
“Turns out “Michael Phelps races a shark” was really just “Michael Phelps swims alone and then compares his time to a shark’s time,” went another disappointed response.
Another viewer said she felt “robbed” by the experience, tweeting, “Call me crazy but I thought they were gonna put Phelps up against a real shark not a simulation. I feel robbed. #SharkWeek #PhelpsVsShark.”
Ultimately, Phelps lost the 100-meter contest by two seconds, finishing the race in 38.1 seconds compared to the shark’s 36.1 seconds.
If Phelps was disappointed by the results, however, he remained upbeat in the face of defeat, tweeting Sunday night, “Rematch? Next time..warmer water. #SW30 @Discovery @SharkWeek.”
Watch Phelps’ full video below.