In honor of Shark Week, someone came up with the idea of pitting Michael Phelps, 23-time Olympic swimming champion against a great white shark.
Well, it’s certainly got my attention, how in the world could such a race even happen? Great white sharks have been clocked at up to 35Mph where Phelps has a top swimming speed of around 6Mph. 6 miles per hour in the water is incredible. Phelps is the fastest swimmer on earth. However, there is a pretty sizable gap in speed between the two. Not to mention the danger of getting into the water next to a shark that you can’t possibly out swim.
Solving the danger issue
There is a list of details that need to be considered before the race can even happen. One consideration is how to keep Phelps alive next to the shark. Knowing that logistics were confusing, Phelps explained how the race was set up.
“We were off the tip of Cape Town in South Africa and set up, almost, a lane where I was able to swim in a straight line. We were in open water, but we did not have a shark literally next to me swimming.’
It would make more sense to have the two race one after the other, for safety reasons. Phelps was also fitted with a special fin that is designed to even out the playing field a little. Even with the special fin, and the ‘almost lane’ in the water, there were still a few kinks to work out.
Sharks don’t swim in straight lines
‘The challenge of trying to get a white to swim in a straight line was difficult,’ Phelps went on to explain. ‘Because when a white attacks a seal on the surface they come from under the surface to build speed to be able to get that natural breach that we all see from great whites. But I think with some of the tests that we were running out there on the boat, we were able to see what they can do.
‘It’s a speed burst that they reach up to 25mph, so in a 100-meter race, they might be swimming at 16mph. Don’t look at me to try to figure out formulas, but I know we have people that are smart enough to be able to figure the formulas out to then project the speed that they would swim over the course of 100 meters.’
‘That’s what we were able to do, and it was crazy. Just watching them naturally breach and then watching them come down with the amount of force that they have when they are going to see what something is.’
The race took place last month
The race was filmed last month and is set to air during Shark Week on Discovery Channel during the last week of July. It seems as though Phelps and his family were hitting at this upcoming race for quite some time. Phelps’ son had his first birthday party was shark themed, and the Instagram photos are adorable.
Phelps did go on to say that the worst part of the race was the water temperature. In the pools that he is accustomed to swimming in the water stays around 80 degrees. However, where the race took place it was much colder.
Michael Phelps enjoyed the experience
As ever, Discovery is going to try to educate people on sharks, their behavior, and even their incredible swimming speed. Phelps does admit that the whole race made him a little nervous, but it was also an incredible experience. He was up close and personal with a hammerhead. He was given a good run down on how to behave in the water when there are sharks around.
‘I guess it’s probably doing more common sense stuff than you think about. It’s not freaking out, trying not to flail your arms all over the place. Not splashing into the water and making a gigantic wave. Because that’s obviously going to attract them to come up and see what’s jumping in their environment. And then try and check it out. We look at these animals as dangerous animals but they’re not; they’re out there trying to survive just like we are on land.’
It should be an exciting race to watch, though I’m not sure who I’m rooting for Phelps or the shark.