After South African swimmer Chad le Clos beat US rival Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly race in 2012, the two spoke about Phelps coming to South Africa to swim with great white sharks.
But Phelps has gone one better and has raced against a great white shark off the Cape coast for a documentary by the wildlife TV programme Discovery.
According to the Daily Mail, the pitting of Phelps, the most successful Olympian, against the world’s most feared and efficient predator in a 100m swimming race is gripping the public’s imagination. The outcome has been kept a closely guarded secret, but will be broadcast by Discovery on Monday evening.
Apparently the US swimming team taking part in the world championships in Budapest are eager to see if their former teammate is faster than a shark.
In 2012 Phelps said: “I’ve always wanted to dive with great whites. Sharks are one of my favourite animals in the world.”
Speaking of the race he said, “We did set up a lane line to make it look like there was a pool.”
To make sure it was safe, there were about 15 divers in the water with him. The competitors did not race side by side as the challenge of getting a great white to swim in a straight line is difficult.
These fish swim at 9 to 11km/h , but can reach 40km/h when hunting. The swimmer’s top speed is 9km/h but for the race he strapped on a “monofin” on his feet, to double his speed in a bid to even things up.
He took part in the documentary to aid shark conservation and show they “really aren’t out to eat us”.