Retired swimmer Michael Phelps will return to the water next month as he prepares to race against a shark in a battle sure to attract the eyes of the world.
The 31-year-old American, the most successful Olympian of all time, will compete in the event to kick off the popular Shark Week on television network Discovery Channel.
Exact details around the race, such as how it will be conducted and where, remain sketchy, but Discovery announced the June 23 battle in a press release.
“They are one of the fastest and most efficient predators on the planet: Sharks,” it read.
“He is our greatest champion to ever get in the water: Michael Phelps.
“Thirty-nine world records. 23 Olympic golds. But he has one competition left to win.”
Discovery went on to describe the event as “so monumental no one has ever attempted it before”.
It added: “The world’s most decorated athlete takes on the ocean’s most efficient predator: Phelps v Shark – the race is on!”
The channel’s Shark Week has run for 28 years and provides viewers with all they could ever want to know about the predators.
Discovery Communications President and CEO David Zaslav announced Phelps’ involvement in March – but there was no mention of the staggering race that has captured people’s imaginations.
“Shark Week was very successful for us last year,” he said.
“We wanted to take it to the next level. Michael Phelps will be part of Shark Week on opening night.
“We’re going to kick it off with Michael and the sharks.”
It had been assumed that Phelps would be involved in some form of hosting capacity.
He will do that too, appearing on ‘Shark School with Michael Phelps’ on June 30.
— Discovery (@Discovery) June 16, 2017
According to the network, Phelps will learn about hammerhead sharks at the Bahamas’ Bimini Shark Lab.
He will then dive with the sharks and learn “how to stay calm when a hammerhead swims two feet above his face”.
So, who will win? Surely even Phelps couldn’t beat a shark?
That is the view of Tooni Mahto from the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
“It is a forgone conclusion as to who is going to come out on top,” Mahto told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“We can all be fairly certain it’s not going to be Michael Phelps versus a great white shark in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
“I’m assuming it’s going to be looking at the human body in water compared to a creature that’s evolved over millions of years and is perfectly adapted to its marine environment.”
A Phelps comeback?
If you thought Phelps racing against a shark might indicate he is still interested in competitive swimming, forget it.
“Done, done, done – and this time I mean it,” Phelps said after last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“I wanted to come back and finish my career how I wanted and this was the cherry on top of the cake.”
Phelps won five gold medals and one silver in the Brazilian capital.