What does the most decorated Olympian of all time do when he finally retires from his sport?
Race a shark, apparently. Discovery Channel recently announced that Michael Phelps, the 31-year-old former competitive swimmer with a record 23 Olympic gold medals, will square off against a great white shark as part of the channel’s upcoming Shark Week programming.
“They are one of the fastest and most efficient predators on the planet: Sharks. He is our greatest champion to ever get in the water: Michael Phelps. Thirty-nine world records. Twenty-three Olympic golds. But he has one competition left to win. An event so monumental no one has ever attempted it before. The world’s most decorated athlete takes on the ocean’s most efficient predator,” the channel writes in a press release for Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White (airing July 23 at 8 p.m. ET).
I guess once you’ve smoked every competitive swimmer on the planet, the only thing left to do is square off against a titan of the animal kingdom. Does Phelps have a chance? If the shark is really going for it, probably not. According to the ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research, there’s little doubt the shark’s top speed will be faster than Phelps’ top speed. “Current consensus among shark scientists is that the top swimming speed of the Great White is at least 25 miles per hour. My own rough, back-of-the-envelope-type calculations—using several methods—suggest that the White Shark may achieve burst speeds of 35 miles per hour or more,” the author writes.
For comparison, a 2010 ESPN article reported Phelps’ fastest swim at 6 miles per hour. Phelps will also be at a serious size disadvantage, as he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 194 pounds. Great white sharks, on the other hand, weigh between 1,500-2,400 pounds and can measure up to 21 feet long.
The facts make it look like Phelps is destined to get slaughtered during the race (metaphorically), but we’re sure Discovery has something up their sleeve to keep things competitive.