THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL aired the much-anticipated race between US Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and a great white shark yesterday – but viewers aren’t happy.
The TV station’s title for the show – Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White – left some viewers feeling misled. The ‘race’ turned out to be a computer simulation.
The world’s most decorated athlete took on the ocean’s most efficient predator in a television special as Discovery kicked off its 29th edition of Shark Week.
Before yesterday’s broadcast, Discovery filmed the 23-time Olympic gold medallist and the shark swim the selected course on separate occasions.
The footage of the shark was superimposed over Phelps to make it look like the pair were actually racing against each other.
— Michael Phelps (@MichaelPhelps) July 24, 2017
The computer-generated shark swam a time of 36.1 seconds in the 100-metre race, handing Phelps a rare loss.
Discovery went to further lengths to make the scene look realistic.
Phelps was given a specially designed suit and mono fin to wear in the South African waters. He also swam without using his arms, as he ‘dolphin-kicked’ his way to a time of 38 seconds in the race.
‘I feel robbed’
Some viewers took to social media to vent their disappointment.
CBS Sports analyst Gary Parrish wrote on Twitter: “Turns out ‘Michael Phelps races a shark’ was really just ‘Michael Phelps swims around and then compares his time to a shark’s time.’”
Some viewers described themselves as feeling “robbed”.
— Meg Conley (@MegDownSouth) July 24, 2017
— grace williams (@gracewilliams08) July 24, 2017
I know it's stupid to think michael phelps was actually going to be racing against a real shark but I'm stupid and upset
— Nicole (@nicoleee_adams) July 24, 2017
Michael Phelps isn’t the first athlete to take on an animal.
Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens raced against horses on a number of occasions in the 1940s. In 2007, one of rugby’s fastest players, Bryan Habana, took on a cheetah in a race as part of an event to raise awareness about the decline of the animal.