Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps raced that shark on TV last night. Well, sort of

It turned out that Michael Phelps was no match for a shark, even a simulated one.

In an odd battle of man-versus-wild, Michael Phelps was going to swim a 100-meter race against a great white shark during Sunday night’s "Shark Week" kickoff. At least that’s what fans were expecting.

Of course, the decorated Olympian was never going to risk damaging his $55-million physique for a Discovery Channel-sponsored race with a shark. But the event’s lead-up, which the network billed as "Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White," had viewers convinced otherwise.

Last week, in an interview with "Good Morning America," Phelps clarified some misconceptions about the event.

“We’re not in the water at the same exact time," he said. "I think that’s the one thing we all — we want everyone to know — I was safe, which was No. 1."

But as it turns out, Phelps’ safety wasn’t too high on anyone else’s list of concerns.

Phelps hopped into a 100-meter stretch of water off the coast of Mossel Bay, South Africa, and took off down the makeshift lanes.

Much to viewers’ dismay, Phelps swam the "race" solo, time-trial style. His great white competitor was actually a CGI version of a shark, which supposedly imitated what would have been a real-life shark’s speed.

Some viewers noted the program’s convenient use of simulated imaging, which suggested that humans and sharks swim at comparable speeds. In reality, even a seemingly herculean swimmer like Phelps can’t swim more than 6 miles per hour, compared to the great white’s 26.

Let’s just say that many "Shark Week" aficionados were less than enthused.

And the winner was? Phelps lost the race to his gilled, computer-generated opponent — but only by two seconds. And, in typical Phelps fashion, the hyper-competitive Olympian proposed a rematch.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times) (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times) Nicolas Jaar (Timothy Norris / Getty Images) (Emma McIntyre / Getty Images)

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