On Sunday evening, many tuned in to the Discovery Channel to see Shark Week kick-off with a much-anticipated Phelps vs. Shark special, subtitled "Great Gold vs. Great White." The special featured Phelps "racing" a great white shark — which, in reality, consisted of scientists collecting data on shark swimming speeds and pitting Phelps against a computer-animated version of a shark based on these collected speeds.
For those who did not to watch hotly-anticipated show, in the end (spoiler alert), the shark, somewhat expectedly, won the hypothetical race, though not by much. The computer-generated shark beat Phelps by exactly two seconds. While still a "loss," losing a race to a computer-generated shark by a mere couple seconds seems to be a pretty impressive feat.
Most viewers and social media users did not seem surprised by Phelps' loss. However, they reacted much more strongly to the fact that Phelps did not actually race a real shark in open water. While some users thought that it was obvious that Phelps would never take on an actual shark due to the presumed danger associated with doing so, others believed that, particularly due to the Discovery Channel's hyping of the show, Phelps would indeed be racing a real, live shark in the ocean.
This collection of memes about the race reflects these varied reactions to Phelps vs. Shark and portrays how perpetually impressed many people are by Phelps, even if he did "only" race a computer-generated great white.
This Twitter user depicted how many people seemingly expected the Phelps/Shark race to pan out.
This woman isn't mincing words when it comes to her expectations for Phelps vs. Shark.
3Can't Look Away
Most people knew the shark would beat Phelps, but the prospect of watching the race was intriguing nonetheless.
Expressing a "victory grin" is easy when you have dozens of razor-sharp teeth.
Many viewers had hoped for more action and a veritable Man vs. Shark race.
If Phelps had raced the lovably dysfunctional "Left Shark," he would've probably won.
7"You Merely Adopted The Water"
This meme epitomizes why a shark will always have the upper hand against Phelps (and any human, for that matter).
One can imagine Phelps probably engaged in a similarly intensive reflection period prior to his "shark race," just as he (very notably) did before racing South African swimmer Chad le Clos in the 200m butterfly semifinal at last year's Olympics.
9A Problem Of "Olympic" Proportions
Phelps' reaction to this simulation of a shark racing him at the Olympics is priceless.
10"Shocking" Shark Victory
Many viewers tuned into the show pretty much already knowing the outcome.
11What Were You Expecting?
An eye roll perfectly sums up the reactions of many to those who expected that Phelps would actually be racing a live shark.
12Ice Cold Water
Even if Phelps didn't race a live shark, the swimming in freezing water is an impressive feat in itself.
13Jared Vs. Sloth
This man contemplates an animal he believes he could successfully beat in a competitive race — the egregiously slow sloth.
This Twitter user faced some harsh realities while watching the race.
A throwback to Phelps' infamous pre-race face at the Olympics fully captures the essence of Phelps vs. Shark.
Overall, these memes certainly reflect the wide-range of reactions viewers had to the Phelps vs. Shark special. While the show perhaps did not meet the expectations of many, it nonetheless seemed to provide a good deal of entertainment and inspire a whole lot of online commentary.