CAN you blame him?

Social media users were tearing Michael Phelps to shreds for his "race" against a Great White shark on Monday - calling it a "scam" - after he chose to swim side-by-side with a simulation, instead of the real thing.

Viewers everywhere were confused over the way the televised swimming competition went down.

Those hoping to see the Olympic gold medalist swim side-by-side with the ocean's most fearsome predator were sadly disappointed as Phelps and the Great White each took turns running the 100m race course at different times.

Researchers with the Discovery Channel first recorded the time of the shark, then let the 32-year-old swim by himself in the waters off the coast of South Africa - which to his credit, is a danger in itself.

During Phelps' run, producers superimposed an image of the Great White on the other side of him to give the appearance of an actual, head-to-head swimming race.

While it ultimately helped keep the Olympian safe, the move didn't sit well with viewers.

Though most people were upset, there were some who understood where the race organisers was coming from.

The "race" ended in dramatic fashion, with Jaws edging out Phelps by just two seconds.

The shark, age unknown, managed to swim the length of the open ocean course in 36.1 seconds - while the Olympian did it in 38.1.

To assure his safety, Discovery placed numerous divers around the Olympic gold medallist to keep an eye on the predators.

Braving the frigid 11C waters, the 32-year-old ultimately tried to beat the shark's time by using a "monofin" and one millimetre-thick wet suit.

To be fair, Great Whites can swim up to 40km/h, which is light years ahead of Phelps' top speed of 10km/h per hour.

Experts described on the show how the Olympic superhero actually stood a chance against the much-faster shark thanks to his endurance.

While the Great White swam the race at a slow pace - with brief bursts of speed - Phelps attempted to outpace the shark by cruising and maintaining the same steady rate.

But it wasn't enough to score the victory.

News Corp Australia

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