Here’s How People Reacted to Michael Phelps’ Historic Shark Race


Did you hear Michael Phelps is going to race a great white shark? [High five.] Oooooohhh yeah. [Chest bump.] This will totally be the best television event since Pyramids Live: Secret Chambers Revealed! Right?

Despite hopes for some wild contraption that allowed the shark and the Olympian to burst out of the blocks simultaneously, like some kind of aquatic rodeo, what viewers got on Sunday night was far more practical. The race was a simulation. The Shark Week team superimposed the shark into the video of Phelps swimming to create something a little more entertaining than just giving their times. But there was no in-water duel to be had. 

The great white beat the 28-time Olympic medalist by two seconds. Phelps was also timed against a hammerhead and a reef shark. The hammerhead got the best of that match, but Phelps managed to log a better time than the reef shark. 

Viewers thought it'd be a race in real time and the online disappointment was instant, even though he was clearly never going to race a great white in open water. "Watch Michael Phelps get eaten by a great white," would be a weird way to start Shark Week.

It was still fascinating to see someone of Phelps's ability go up against a shark, even in simulation. Plus, the Shark Week launch might have turned Phelps into a meme for the second time in the last year. 

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.