You read that right — Phelps will attempt to outswim a great white shark.
The cable channel confirmed the seemingly absurd race in a news release Thursday, June 15.
"He is our greatest champion to ever get in the water: Michael Phelps," according to Discovery. "But he has one competition left to win. An event so monumental no one has ever attempted it before."
Specific details about the race, including what style or technique of swimming Phelps will employ to try and beat the great white shark or where the race will be held, remain as questions. Discovery did confirm that the race, Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White, will air on July 23.
Michael Phelps vs Great White Shark: Can Phelps Pull It Off?
Discovery's much-beloved Shark Week will officially kick off with Phelps, who later in the week will join scientists to discuss shark myths — and then go against the hammerhead.
As The Washington Post points out, taping of the high-stake race may have already happened. Phelps also recently posted a photo on Instagram featuring a shark in the water, captioning it with a note that said he has finally done what he'd always wanted to do: "Be in a cage and dive with great White sharks !! #bucketlist." The photo portends Phelps has indeed been in close encounter with a shark, but it remains a question whether the race will put the two competitors — man vs. animal — in the same body of water.
We're not fully getting the logistics of the race to make early predictions, but Phelps, as exemplary an athlete as he is — probably one of his generation's best, in fact — likely can't outpace a great white shark in its natural habitat.
Michael Phelps vs Great White Shark: In Terms Of Speed
ESPN put Phelps's top speed at 6 miles per hour; large sharks can swim at an average of 1.5 miles per hour. White sharks, on the other hand, can swim at an estimated 25 miles per hour, according data by ReefQuest Center for Shark Research. Based solely on the numbers, you can probably see how this race will turn out.
In all fairness, ESPN recorded Phelps's top speed in 2010, and there's no telling whether the Olympic medalist has since become faster in the water or not. That said, even more telling of Phelps's potential loss in the forthcoming race is a 2008 study claiming he swims slower than a goldfish.
Those points aside, no one can dispute that Phelps racing against a great white shark makes for excellent cable programming, regardless of whoever emerges victorious. For now, we're betting on the shark winning the race based on current data, but points are due for Phelps for being a great sport despite him probably losing this one.
Thoughts about Phelps racing against a great white shark? Who do you think will win? Feel free to sound off in the comments section below!