Michael Phelps on His Newest Competitor: A Great White Shark

This essay creatively seemed on TIME.com.

The fastest swimmer in a pool faces off opposite a fastest quadruped in a deep: that’s a pride behind a latest Shark Week stunt, airing Jul 23 on Discovery, in that 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps tests his supernatural nautical skills opposite a streamlined speed of a biggest underwater predator of all.

But his seductiveness in sharks isn’t only about proof an jaunty point.

“I’m a large geek when it comes to sharks,” he tells TIME. “Just being means to see a handful of class of sharks out of a over 500 sharks we have in a universe — that only unequivocally vehement me.”

Phelps worked with the Shark Week team to cage-dive with sharks, learn about a class from experts and govern an open-water “race,” in that a swimmer took to a blue waters of a Bahamas to exam his speed opposite a normal cruising gait of his sea competitors.

For maybe a initial time ever in a swimming match, Phelps found himself during a earthy disadvantage: a Great White on a hunt can strike speeds scarcely 5 times as quick as Phelps’s medal-winning sprints. But with a further of a mermaid-like monofin and specifically designed wetsuit, he put on his diversion face and gave it his best shot. (You’ll have to balance in to Shark Week to find out who won.) Here, he explains because he motionless to get out of a pool and into a sea — and because sharks merit a respect, not a fear.

TIME: Are we used to swimming in a sea or being around sharks?

Michael Phelps: I’m routinely not swimming in a physique of H2O unless it has a black line on a bottom. So it was different. But we spend so most time in a water, it’s easy for me and relaxing for me. we wanted to get in a H2O with these animals and be a large nerd about it. Sharks are some of a biggest predators that we have in a ocean, so being means to learn about them and float with them is something that’s always been a dream of mine, and a event with Shark Week was a dream come true.

Walk us by a routine of putting on a race. How did we magnitude yourself opposite them?

A Great White can float adult to 25 miles per hour on a burst, and accidentally swims 6 to 7 miles an hour. Or we have a hammerhead that can float adult to 15 miles an hour. When we consider about my max speed in a race, that is about 5 and a half miles an hour, it’s tough to contest opposite that speed. So we had to make some changes. we was means to have a fin — a monofin. That helped me make a competition a small bit closer. We weren’t side by side. When a Great White bursts during a surface, that’s their resource for apparently aggressive and for removing food, so that’s not a normal speed that they float at. [The scientists] were calculating a speed they could potentially float in a true line.

How did we prepare?

We had a garland of use in a pool contrast out a monofin and perplexing to see what a fastest approach for me to pierce underwater was, either it was swimming on my back, on my side, on my stomach. The competition was apparently finished in a open H2O — we did not put a shark in a H2O [laughs].

What was a biggest takeaway from your time spent unresolved out with shark experts?

I consider a biggest thing is to get a summary opposite that they don’t wish to eat us. They’re not perplexing to kill us and perplexing to harm us. They’re out there flourishing only like we are on land. Hopefully with some of a lessons that I’ve schooled and a do’s and don’ts in a shark world, hopefully people can learn and hopefully people can be means to float giveaway with a sharks.

Are we going to be spending some-more time in a ocean, now that you’ve finished this training? Or will we hang to pools?

I float once or twice a week. For me, it’s an shun to relax a small bit and be in my possess world. we would like to learn some-more about what we have in a ocean. Water is a partial of my life, and will be a partial of my life forever. Whether it’s charge of water, either it’s conserving wildlife, we know there are a lot of people that are killing sharks out there, and we need to stop that. There are a lot of things that we still wish to do, and even yet I’m not competing anymore, I’m still going to be concerned in H2O in a lot of opposite capacities.

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