Michael Phelps is racing a shark which had led to a lot of confusion on how the race will work. Fans envisioning Phelps in a pool with a shark will be disappointed.
Putting Phelps into the water alone with a shark would be quite dangerous. The Discovery Channel agreed on a format that would be as even as possible while allowing Phelps to remain in one piece.
“Well, we’re not in the water at the same exact time,” Phelps told ABC. “I think that’s the one thing we all wanted everybody to know — I was safe, which is number one…When you have an animal this size, you want to be able to see how fast they swim. And it’s tough to be able to go into their territory and swim as fast as they do.”
Essentially Phelps is racing against the time of the shark. While Phelps raced in the same ocean water as the shark, they did not race against each other at the same time. From the looks of the prep races, Discovery will super impose an image of the shark into the water.
The organizers were able to get the shark to swim 100 meters in a straight line. Phelps swam the same 100 meters, and the times were compared to each other in the “race”. Given a shark is obviously a faster swimmer than Phelps, he was given a monofin to wear on his feet to add speed to his time.
While Phelps does not have the top-end speed of a shark, his hope in winning the contest comes in his stamina. A shark can swim 25 miles per hour, they are unlikely to maintain that speed for 100 meters.
One of the biggest challenges for Phelps aside from the sheer speed of the shark, was the temperature of the water. Unlike a pool Phelps is used to swimming, the ocean water was cold at an estimated 53 degrees.