Michael Phelps Loses Race Against Great White Shark — but Wins Against Reef Shark
When fans heard that 28-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps would be racing against against a shark on live TV they were excited, but it turns out the result wasn’t quite what they had in mind.
On Sunday’s Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White, the Olympic swimmer tested his racing ability against a number of sharks — but it was all simulated. Instead, Phelps raced against virtual versions of the sharks side-by-side based on their swim rate in a separate race.
The problem? Many fans apparently thought that the retired Olympian would be getting into a swim tank with real sharks. And they took their frustration to Twitter.
While it was announced ahead of time that Phelps would not be swimming side-by-side with live sharks during the race in Bahamian waters, fans were apparently still confused.
Still, Phelps was prepared for the experiment with the addition of a mermaid-like monofin and a specially designed wetsuit helped even the playing field a bit — and Phelps put on his game face and gave it his best shot.
In the end it turned out that Phelps both won — and lost. In the 50-meter race he beat the reef shark with a time of 18.7 but was blasted out of the water by the hammerhead with a time of 15.1.
However, when it came to the main race against a Great White, Phelps lost the race by two seconds.
Despite the mixed results, Phelps has no hard feelings toward his competitors. In fact, proving an athletic point was never on his agenda.
“I’m a massive geek when it comes to sharks,” he told TIME. “Just being able to see a handful of species of sharks out of the over 500 sharks we have in the world — that just really excited me.”
He’s also hoping that this race will have a bigger take-away than just the results. Phelps, a longtime shark fan himself, wants to bring more awareness and knowledge about the species to the world.
“They don’t want to eat us. They’re not trying to kill us and trying to hurt us,” he explained. “They’re out there surviving just like we are on land. Hopefully with some of the lessons that I’ve learned and the do’s and don’ts in the shark world, hopefully people can learn and hopefully people can be able to swim free with the sharks.”
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Previously, Phelps ventured down to Cape Town, South Africa with the assistance of the Discovery Channel Shark Week team, Phelps ventured down to Cape Town, South Africa to learn about the species and go cage diving in the deep.
“It’s been on my bucket list for years and years,” he told PEOPLE. “As soon as I got down there and saw the fin for the first time, I knew I was going to love it.”