Wildlife watchers in the US are salty as hell that billion-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps didn’t actually race a great white shark in Discovery Channel’s highly-touted Phelps vs. Shark: The Battle for Ocean Supremacy extravaganza.
The hour-long special was commissioned to open up Discovery Channel’s massively popular Shark Week, dedicated to the ocean’s gnarliest, toothiest creatures. Its main attraction was the underwater sprint between Phelps and one of those big-finned bad boys.
While the show was certainly billed as a very literal duel between the two ocean-dwelling competitors, the final show actually superimposed CGI imagery of the sharkagainst the human’s propulsive efforts.
Here’s what it looked like:
— Shark Week (@SharkWeek) July 24, 2017
YEP. Phelps lost over a 100m span, clocking in at 36.1 seconds. That’s a full two seconds slower than the great white’s projected time.
In a stirring victory for humans, Phelps was projected to win a 50m race against a reef shark. That’s all well and good, but viewers were moreso upset that he didn’t fully risk life and limb in those South African waters.
— Ryan Homler (@RHomler) July 24, 2017
— Brooke Bond (@brookeashleyyb) July 24, 2017
Me pretending to be ok with Michael Phelps not racing a real shark pic.twitter.com/QnCF98NfBB
— Gabi Palamone (@Yo_Gabi_Gabi__) July 24, 2017
Michael Phelps not racing a real shark is like being sold Kanye tickets and then watching a Kanye hologram perform
— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) July 24, 2017
Turns out “Michael Phelps races a shark” was really just “Michael Phelps swims alone and then compares his time to a shark’s time.”
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) July 24, 2017
In response to that backlash, Discovery Channel said “we enlisted world-class scientists to take up the challenge of making the world’s greatest swimmer competitive with a Great White.
“The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun.
“All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side by side race.”
The channel also reiterated that their intention was made obvious within the program’s first two minutes.
Sure. Fine. But know this: a great opportunity was squandered here, and television is worse off for it.
Source: Discovery Channel / Washington Post.
Photo: Ian MacNichol / Barcroft Media / Getty.