Michael Phelps Talks About His Race With A Great White Shark For Shark Week

Michael Phelps was named Best U.S. Male Olympic Athlete at the ESPY’s last night and is swimming for his life against a great white shark in what may be a more talked about race in his career than any Olympic race. Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White for will be on Shark Week on July 23 on Discovery.  The opening night special, which was filmed last month, shows the Olympic gold medalist, Phelps, against a variety of sharks.  Technically such a race would be difficult, but Phelps explained just how these races were done.  “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,” he says.  When it was time for the sharks to take on one of the world’s fastest swimmers it was calibrated a bit differently.  “The challenge of trying to get a white to swim in a straight line was difficult, 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 25 mph, so in a 100-meter race, they might be swimming at 16 mph…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.” 

He was asked what the worst part was, “As you see me getting ready for the race in Cape Town, you see focus on my face, and I think that was partially because I was trying to mentally prepare myself for the temperature of the water. The water was very cold. I would say probably the worst part about it was the cold water.” Phelps will also be doing a special on July 30th for Shark Week Shark School with Michael Phelps. The trick to swimming with sharks? Phelps laughed, “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 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.”

Photo credit: Discovery

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