Sorry guys, Michael Phelps didn’t really race a shark in Cape Town…

By Kim Abrahams
25 July 2017

“We’re not going to risk Michael Phelps’s life.”

Anticipation was plentiful as viewers all over the world tuned into the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week special, in which Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps was set to race against a great white shark.

Many wondered who the winner would be, the dynamo swimmer or one of the ocean’s deadliest creatures? The result was an expected win for the dangerous fish. But as it turns out, Michael didn’t race an actual shark – neither was he swimming alongside it as shown in the show, which was shot in the waters of Cape Town.

A computer-generated image of a shark was edited into a recording of the swimmer’s 100 m one-man race.

And because sharks don’t typically swim in a straight line, data about the swim speed of sharks were collected and used to determine what the estimated 100m swim-time would be of the sea creature.

That time was then compared to Michael’s and the result was 36, 1 seconds for the shark – as specified by the data – and a nail-biting 38, 1 seconds for the Olympian.

So ‘close’ – but no cigar. Just controversy.

The internet wasn’t having any of it and hit back in a flood of tweets.

“I think we did our best to try to make it as close as we could,” Michael told Entertainment Weekly.

Discovery also hit back following the furore.

“The whole point is to get people excited about sharks,” Laurie Goldberg, a spokeswoman for the Discovery Channel, said.

“The idea was, is it possible to get the world’s greatest swimmer competitive with a shark?”

Sources: washingtonpost.com, nytimes.com

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