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Michael Phelps

The most successful Olympic athlete in history, Michael Phelps, who has 28 medals for swimming, is to race against a great white shark in a televised event being billed as 'the ocean's greatest predator versus the world's most decorated athlete'.

Michael Phelps

Phelps, aged 31, who retired after Rio 2016, is to star in 'Phelps v Shark' in a battle for supremacy to launch the Discovery Channel's Shark Week on 23rd July.

The potential danger of the race doesn't seem to have perturbed the Olympian, who has said in interviews that he won't be swimming directly next to the shark and that there will be 15 safety divers on hand should the unthinkable happen and the predator becomes more interested in his opponent than in swimming. No-one except Phelps and the film crew knows exactly how the race will be staged - and nobody can foresee how it will turn out!

This won't be Phelps' only meeting with sharks during the week - he will also swim alongside other species of sharks in 'Shark School with Michael Phelps' to show they can be peaceful and curious too.

Experts from the Australian Marine Conservation Society believe it's a foregone conclusion that the shark will win, citing the fact that sharks have evolved over millions of years to the marine environment and are known to reach top speeds of 25mph. However, the curious event is certainly sparking a lot of interest in Shark Week, with some television critics worried about the wellbeing of the Olympic champion.

Scientists working on the project have estimated that despite sharks having bursts of speed, over the course of a 100-metre race, their average speed is around 16 mph. It has also been reported that Phelps has been fitted with a specially-designed monofin to enable him to generate greater underwater torque with his feet - this will allow him to swim at an estimated 12 mph. He might also gain an advantage because the shark doesn't know it's in a race and may not swim in a straight line; if it zigzags, this will slow it down.

Phelps is certainly no stranger to hitting the headlines. He holds the record for the most medals ever won by an Olympian: he has 23 gold, three silver and two bronze medals.

Michael Phelps Swimming

After a short-lived retirement in 2012, he returned in 2014 to earn his place on the 2016 US Olympic swimming team - this makes him the only American swimmer in history to compete in five Olympic Games. At the 2016 Olympics, he won five gold medals and one silver, making him the oldest individual gold medallist in swimming history. He is also the first swimmer to win four consecutive gold medals in the same event, the 200-metre individual medley.

Born on 30th June 1985 in Baltimore, Phelps is the youngest of three children. He took up swimming with his two sisters, Whitney and Hilary. In 1996, Whitney herself tried out for the USA Olympic team when she was just 15 but injuries hampered her swimming career.

Phelps' swimming career began at the Loyola High School pool, followed by North Baltimore Aquatic Club, where he met coach Bob Bowman. An intense training programme led to him being selected for the US National B Team in 1999.

When he was 15, Phelps competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sydney. He didn't win a medal but instead became the record-holder as the youngest American male swimmer to compete at the Olympic Games in 68 years.

He now appears to have officially retired, despite his teammate Ryan Lochte hinting to the press that Phelps would be back for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, Phelps refuted the rumour and said that after 24 years in the pool, he is very happy with the way things ended.

'Phelps v Shark' will be aired on the Discovery Channel on 23rd July at 8pm.

Although you're never going to experience the danger of swimming with a great white shark at your local pool, there are still everyday hazards to be wary of. Coruba's range of wet area pool matting, can reduce the risk of accidents. Stay safe with Coruba!



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