But the affair was a close call, as Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian ever, finished just two-seconds behind a simulated version of the deadly beast.
The swimmer took part in the competition, dubbed “Phelps v Shark: Great Gold v Great White”, as part of Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.
TV chiefs used performance data to find out how quickly the predator could cover 100 metres.
And they then superimposed an image of the shark on footage of Phelps swimming in the ocean.
Most thought the Olympian, who can swim at around 6mph, didn’t stand a chance against the simulated shark’s top speed of 25 mph.
However, he had his team level out the playing field between the two, designing him a shark skin-like wetsuit and a Lunocet swimfin mimicking a shark’s tail.
He told USA Today that with the fin, he estimates he reached speeds of “8 to 10, maybe 12.
But for me, it actually gives me more of an appreciation for how fast (sharks) move through the water, especially at their size.”
Even with the extra help, the shark was just too fast for the 32-year-old, who finished the 100m stretch in 38.1 seconds to the Great White’s 36.1 seconds.
Phelps started off out-swimming the shark, but was pipped to the post at the very end of the race, which took place off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa and was aired on the Discovery Channel.
Speaking to USA Today before the race, Phelps said: “Shark Week was always during major competition, so between (pool) sessions, I was watching stuff about sharks and trying to learn more,
“That’s where my biggest nerdy side comes out, because I’m so infatuated with water and infatuated with sharks.”
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