In the season finale of “Shaq vs.”, they’ve certainly saved the best for last as Shaq takes on Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Some may remember that Shaquille O’Neal has a Olympic Gold Medal himself as he was part of the 1996 Basketball Dream Team. On the other hand, Michael Phelps has 14 Gold Medals. Who will win the battle of the Olympians?
The episode begins with Shaq talking with his trainer Mike Clark on how to prepare for this latest match-up. Clark asks if Shaq can swim, and Shaq jokes that if he can box, play football, etc. – then he certainly can swim. Shaq dubs the match as Superman vs. Aquaman. So Shaq heads to Maryland for his latest challenge which will take place in Loyola University. When Shaq arrives in Maryland, he rides around in a black SUV with his head hanging out the window yelling in a medieval type of dialect to the people on the street that he has come to challenge Michael Phelps.
Shaq greets Michael at his home, they exchange pleasantries and Shaq says hi to Phelps’s dog. Phelps has a boot on his leg, and he tells Shaq that it is just precautionary. He also says to Shaq that it could be him just trying to psych him out. Afterward, Phelps takes Shaq to his favorite eatery. Shaq says that he’ll have whatever Michael is having, and Michael jokes “do you really want what I’m having”? Shaq says yes and Phelps orders a ton of food which was reminiscent of the segment he had during the Beijing Olympic Games where Michael talked about how much food he ate a day. Phelps orders a burger, two crab dips, and crab cake sandwich. He then suggests to Shaq that since he is in Maryland that he had to have the crab. Shaq is baffled by how much Phelps eats, and he further asks if he has a trainer or if he needs to watch what he eats. Phelps responds that he eats whatever he wants (i.e. oreos, candy, etc) and he even had some pepperoni pizza before they came for lunch. Shaq says to the camera later that he could never eat that much. During the lunch meeting Shaq and Phelps discuss the terms of the match and they came to agreement to have a 25m pool. There’s also a bet! If Shaq wins, Phelps has to say: “if Shaq wanted to be an Olympic swimmer, he can”. If Shaq lost, Phelps wanted Shaq to be a synchronized swimmer for a day and wear a pink swim cap with a flower on it. The song that Phelps wanted Shaq to swim to was “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas.
It’s training time!
Three days before the match, Shaq works his trainer Mike Clark. Clark advises Shaq to use his legs more and less of his arms. Two days before the match, Shaq works with Michael Phelps’s coach of 13 years, Bob Bowman. Shaq’s training goes well, and his times got better every lap he took. Shaq then asks Bowman about breathing. He asks if Phelps had a method of breathing and Bowman says that Phelps sometimes has a method where he takes a breath on every 4th stroke. During the press conference, it was stated that the match would be made up of 3 legs. The competition would be split into 2 individual races and 1 relay race. Bowman introduces Shaq to his relay teammates. Shaq’s relay partners were Dana Vollmer, Rebecca Soni, and Ariana Kukors. All four of them did a practice run and as Shaq put it: “I slowed down the girls”.
On to the match!
The first race is a head-to-head match between Shaq and Phelps. Shaq has to swim one length of the pool while Phelps has to swim two lengths. To make things fair, Phelps has a 5 second head start…and they’re off. It’s close but SHAQ WINS! Shaq wins by a stroke, but he doesn’t gloat because he knew that Phelps was right there. Shaq’s time was 23.14 seconds and Phelps’s time was 24.03 seconds.
It’s a 200m IM relay. The ladies will swim the first 3 legs of the relay and Shaq will swim anchor. Michael Phelps has to swim the entire 200m IM himself. Dana Vollmer kicks off the race with the butterfly stroke and she actually out swims Phelps. Ariana Kukors dives in with the backstroke and already Shaq’s team is out with a lead. Rebecca Soni dives in afterward and swims the breast stroke which is considered Michael Phelps’s weakest stroke. As Soni makes the turn, she has a commanding lead over Phelps (almost a 25m lead) as Shaq dove in to swim the anchor leg. Shaq’s dive was like a big flop into the pool. Shaq-mu as dubbed by the commentators and it looked like he lost some time because of it. Shaq is slow with the turn too and Phelps is starting to gain on him. It was almost a little past the 15m mark that Phelps started to turn on the jets and the race really came down to the wire and Phelps’s Midas touch allowed him to beat Shaq by the narrowest of margins.
This is the deciding race. Shaq changes into a different suit and wears a speedo very similar to the one Phelps was wearing which was kind of funny. In this race, Shaq would have to swim 50m and Phelps would have to swim 75m. It is Phelps who is able to beat Shaq by a stroke with a finishing time of 38.59 seconds to Shaq’s 38.76 seconds. Shaq gives props to Phelps and there was only one thing to do…to settle the bet.
The synchronized swimmers were already in the pool and Shaq was handed his pink swim cap that had a flower on it. Unfortunately he didn’t perform a routine to “Boom Boom Pow”, but he did perform a cannon ball off the diving board (sporting his pink cap) for the audience.
If you missed this episode, or you want to watch it again…watch it on ABC.com.