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Michael Phelps, Discovery Channel defend race vs. simulated great white shark

Now that we know Michael Phelps didn’t actually race a real shark in Discovery Channel’s “Phelps vs Shark: Great Gold vs Great White” on Sunday, and that viewers were not entirely happy to see the man-versus-pixels programming, what happened next should be about as surprising as Phelps’ ultimate loss:

Fans took their grievances to Facebook Live.

The Olympic legend held court in a nearly hourlong chat Tuesday, discussing everything from the Ravens to getting slimed at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards to Shark Week.

Nearly 12 minutes in, Phelps addressed the backlash.

“Everybody wants to try to pick on something or say something or complain about something,” he said. “I had fun racing a shark and seeing those animals up close and personal. If somebody actually wants to get in the water and race side by side with a great white, go ahead. You’re not going to get the shark to swim in a straight line. And, yeah, it would be interesting to see. We’ll leave it at that.”

Commenters continued to note their disappointment. At about the 17:40 mark, Phelps told one “Scott,” in particular, that no one had been intentionally deceived.

“You can believe whatever you want,” he said. “Everything was either presented on air during multiple interviews that I did throughout Shark Week or the beginning of the show. Sorry you feel that way. For me, this was something I always wanted to do, and I was honored to be able to do it. I’m sorry that you feel that way. I feel very different.”

Discovery itself said the network wanted to make the “world’s greatest swimmer competitive” with a great white shark.

“The show took smart science and technology to make the challenge more accessible and fun,” Discovery said in a statement to reporters. “All the promotion, interviews and the program itself made clear that the challenge wasn’t a side-by-side race. During Michael’s pre-show promotion, as well as within the first 2 minutes of ‘Phelps vs Shark,’ this message was clear and we are thrilled with the audience and the engagement around the world.”

Whatever you think of their tactics, they worked. The show earned a 1.9 rating among adults 18 to 49 and 4.78 million viewers overall, second only to HBO’s “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night.

Which means a rematch probably isn’t so far-fetched.



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