What if I told you Michael Phelps is going to race a shark? Cue the future 30 for 30 documentary as Phelps is racing (technically already raced) a great white shark. However, it depends on how you define race as the two were not in the water at the same time.
As part of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, Phelps took part in a race against a great white shark. When viewers tune in to see the race, it may not be what fans expect.
As you can imagine, getting into the same waters as a shark and attempting to race him is not the safest thing to try. Instead, Discovery Channel will compare the times of Phelps and the shark.
Spoiler alert, the shark is likely to win as it can swim more than four times faster than Phelps. However, we will all tune in because when was the last time you saw one of the world’s most decorated Olympians attempt to race a shark?
Here is what you need to know about Phelps vs. Shark.
1. Phelps Did Not Race the Shark at the Same Time
Despite Phelps willingness to literally race a shark, the organizers decided on a safer way to make the race happen. Discovery Channel timed both the shark and Phelps. While they did not race at the same time, they did race in the same waters for the 100-meter length.
Phelps spoke with ABC’s Good Morning America about the race format.
“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…For me, it was an experience I’ll never forget. Being able to be on the bottom, basically, of the ocean floor and surrounded by a number of different species of sharks was one of the coolest things that I’ve probably ever done.”
2. The Race Took Place in 53-Degree Ocean Water Against a Great White Shark
Phelps had no home “water” advantage as the race was not going to happen in a pool like Phelps is used to competing in. The race took place in the cool ocean water, which was Phelps’ biggest adjustment in preparing for the contest.
“The biggest thing for me is open water,” Phelps told ABC. “Being in open water is so different from swimming in a swimming pool. It was like 53 degrees, so that’s about like an ice tank, that added a little twist to the equation.”
Phelps did wear a wet suit which helped provide some warmth in addition to helping with his buoyancy.
3. Given a Shark is Much Faster Than Phelps, He Wore a Monofin to Increase His Speed
A shark’s top-end speed is more than four times greater than Phelps. A great white shark can swim up to 25 miles per hour while Phelps has noted he can swim about six miles per hour. To try to level the playing field, Phelps was given a monofin to wear during the race.
Phelps wore the monofin on his feet as a way to simulate wearing a shark fin. If the race was just measuring top speed, Phelps would have no chance. The race was 100 meters giving Phelps slim hope he might be able to outlast the shark even if he cannot outrun him.
Discovery Channel was able to get the shark to race in a straight line in order to get the time.
4. Phelps Wanted to Race the Shark Without a Cage, But His Wife Vetoed the Idea
As part of the process, Phelps got to cage dive with sharks. He initially wanted to race without the cage, but this idea was quickly vetoed by his wife.
“I told my wife I wanted to do it without a cage and she said, ‘Well, we have a family, so I don’t know if that’s really going to fly,’ ” Phelps said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Phelps married long-time girlfriend Nicole Johnson in 2016. The couple has a one-year-old son, Boomer, and Phelps recently admitted they would like to have more kids in the future.
5. Phelps Is a Massive Shark Nerd & Attended Shark School to Prepare for the Race
Part of the reason the race came to fruition was Phelps love of sharks and Shark Week. Phelps spoke with Vanity Fair about his dream of swimming with sharks coming true.
“For me, Shark Week has been a part of my life for the last 15 years or so, and being able to get in the water with these guys where I’m literally face-to-face with some of the most majestic creatures you’ve ever seen, that was a treat,” Phelps told Vanity Fair. “…I was literally within a foot of multiple massive sharks. That, you know, could be scary at times, but for me it was a dream come true.”
Phelps did not just plunge into the water with sharks. There was a lot of training involved, and Phelps went to shark school to learn how to behave in water filled with sharks. Discovery Channel will air a one-hour special on July 30 at 8 p.m. Eastern on Phelps learning experience.