Shark Week 2017 kicked off Sunday night, and one of the big events viewers tuned in to see was Michael Phelps race a great white shark. However, the race caused a social media uproar since it wasn’t what many expected, and now the greatest Olympian of all time is responding to the backlash.
The heavily-promoted special titled Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White didn’t exactly deliver on the hype because some people thought Phelps was actually going to race a shark in the open water. As E! News noted, most viewers didn’t find out until about 40 minutes into the program that the race was not going to involve an actual shark at all. Instead, it was revealed that Phelps was going to swim against a simulated version of a great white.
“Clearly, we can’t put Michael in one lane and a white shark on the far lane,” Dr. Tristan Gutteridge said. “We’re going to have to do a simulation.”
So, the 28-time Olympic medalist raced next to a computer-generated shark and lost by a mere two seconds, but fans were more disappointed by the fact that he swam against a CGI shark then the outcome of the race. And of course, social media erupted with viewers expressing their outrage.
On Tuesday, Phelps responded to the backlash during a Facebook Live Q&A, saying he was “sorry” that people felt the way they did.
“Everybody wants to pick on something or say something or complain about something, so I had fun racing a shark and seeing those animals up close and personal,” he said. “If somebody actually wants to get in the water and race side-by-side with a great white, go ahead. You’re not going to get the shark to swim in a straight line. And, uh, yeah, it would be interesting to see. We’ll leave it at that.”
Phelps also denied accusations that the Discovery Channel intentionally misled viewers into watching the special by not divulging what was really going to happen.
To his credit, Phelps did mention in interviews leading up to the show that he would not actually be racing alongside a great white.
The Q&A lasted about an hour, and although the race was the main topic that kept coming up, he did update fans on some other projects he has been working on recently. He also reiterated that he was not considering a comeback to competitive swimming and was enjoying his retirement. The most adorable moments of his session came courtesy of his son, Boomer, who popped up a few times before taking a nap.
After answering a variety of other questions about the everything from the weather to his prediction for the Baltimore Ravens this season, Phelps said he tried not pay attention to all the haters. Before ending the session, he explained that he thought it was pretty “sad” that people sent him so many negative comments following the race.
[Featured Image by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP Images]