MOSSEL BAY, SOUTH AFRICA — After the Discovery Channel promoted a race between Michael Phelps and a great white shark, viewers across the country were outraged to learn the face-off was actually a computer simulation.
Billed as "The Great Gold VS. The Great White" to kick off this year's Shark Week, Phelps was fitted with a wetsuit that mimics the shark's skin, increasing buoyancy, reducing drag, and making him more hydrodynamic. He also strapped on a state-of-the-art monofin, joining his legs together to allow Phelps to push a higher volume of water each times he kicks, maximizing propulsion.
When the program aired, many were disappointed to learn that since great white sharks don't swim in a straight line, the great "race" advertised was merely a recording of Phelps swimming against a CGI simulation of a great white shark. Discovery and Phelps have since taken a beating online by fans who truly felt they'd been deceived. Phelps even logged onto Facebook Live for an hour to defend the show, saying it had been made clear in commercials and interviews that he was not getting into the water to race a real shark.
The program did see Phelps race CGI reef and hammerhead sharks in a 50m swim, with Phelps placing 2nd with a time of 18.7 seconds, 0.2 seconds ahead of the reef shark but losing handedly to the Hammerhead's 15.1 seconds.
In the main event, Phelps swam 100 meters and finished with a time of 36.1 seconds, 2 seconds behind the GCI'd great white shark.