Michael Phelps is returning to the water, but this time the Olympic champ will face a foe with fins and a fearsome set of teeth.
Michael Phelps might be the undisputed king of chlorine, but the salty sea is the great white shark’s domain. So is it possible for one of the best human swimmers in the world to out-swim an animal that spends its entire life underwater? According to CNN, the Discovery Channel will set out to answer this question during its annual summer TV event, Shark Week. A special titled Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs Great White will see Phelps face off against a great white shark in the craziest race of his life.
“He is our greatest champion to ever get in the water: Michael Phelps. 39 world records. 23 Olympic golds. But he has one competition left to win,” reads a Discovery Channel press release. “An event so monumental no one has ever attempted it before. The world’s most decorated athlete takes on the ocean’s most efficient predator: Phelps V. Shark — the race is on!”
On June 10, Phelps shared an Instagram photo of a shark that he snapped from the top of a shark cage, so perhaps he was doing a little training for the big event.
Sure, Michael Phelps’ talent has won him over two dozen Olympic medals, but great whites don’t swim fast for gold or Olympic glory; they need their speed to eat. Food is the best motivator to get a great white to move, and past Shark Week specials have enticed sharks to give chase to foam seal decoys by towing them behind boats. However, it seems highly unlikely that Phelps will simply jump in the water beside a shark trying to get its jaws on a fake seal feast. The Discovery Channel has not explained how exactly the Olympian will race a shark, but there are far simpler ways to test Phelps’ speed against that of a great white.
As GrindTV points out, NatGeo Wild staged a similar race by superimposing a cheetah on the track alongside sprinter Usain Bolt. The network used footage from Bolt’s world-record-setting 100 meter race, but the cheetah left him in the dust; Bolt ran the distance in 9.58 seconds, while it only took the cheetah 5.95 seconds to finish the “race.”
Possible spoiler alert: Newsweek reports that Michael Phelps’ top swimming speed is six miles per hour, while great whites can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour. In other words, the showdown between the great white shark and the “GOAT” (“Greatest of All Time”) might not be much of a race.
Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs Great White will air Sunday, July 23, at 8 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel. It will kick off a week that includes specials about sharks that fight crocodiles and sharks that love hanging out around underwater volcanoes. Michael Phelps will also appear in a July 30 special titled Shark School With Michael Phelps. It will follow the Olympian as he gets a crash course on sharks at the Bimini Shark Lab.
[Featured Image by Stacy Revere/Getty Images]