'Biggest Scam of 2017': Phelps' Race Against a Great White

Fans didn't realize he'd be racing against computer-generated sharks, not real ones
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 24, 2017 7:03 AM CDT
People Really Bummed About Phelps' Race vs. Great White
In this Aug. 7, 2016, file photo, US swimmer Michael Phelps encourages his teammates in the final of the men's 4x100-meter freestyle relay during the swimming competitions at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

It was supposed to be the event of the summer. Well, OK, an event of the summer—but Michael Phelps fans still had high hopes for the swimming champ's much-hyped race Sunday against a bunch of sharks. They didn't read the fine print, however, and People and the New York Post document their disappointment on realizing the 32-year-old Olympic athlete, as part of the Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White special on the Discovery Channel, was pitted against computer-simulated versions of the superfish, whose swim rates had been calculated during previous in-water races. "Disappointed," "letdown," and even "biggest scam of 2017" were just a few of the pejoratives hurled on social media after viewers realized Phelps wouldn't be appearing side by side with his finned foes. "More like Shark WEAK!" complained one fan on Twitter, riffing on Discovery's popular annual event.

With a time of 18.7 seconds in the 50-meter preliminary, Phelps—outfitted in a special wetsuit and monofin—"lost" to a hammerhead (time: 15.1), but "won" over a reef shark (18.9 seconds). Phelps lost the 100-meter competition (one of his world-record specialties, per the Independent) against the great white, 38.1 to 36.1, per TMZ. EW.com reports the two early races were in the Bahamas, while the main event was filmed last month in South Africa; the Washington Post notes that swim took place in 56-degree open water. Phelps acknowledged the chilly swim after the special aired, tweeting: "Rematch? Next time..warmer water." (Live Science explains how great whites manage in such frigid temps.) Other fans simply laughed at the outrage. "Wait... people were actually mad that Phelps didn't race an ACTUAL shark?? Come on people.. use your heads," one tweeted. (More Michael Phelps stories.)

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