Free Solo Confidential: An Update

On March 2, I published an article about how Steven Munatones’s “Free Solo (Confidential)” led to proof that he sabotaged Openwaterpedia. Since then, a lot has happened: the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) announced an investigation, Steven Munatones began spamming Openwaterpedia with links to a revenge blog, and then everything got quiet.

When WOWSA blocked Steven Munatones’s Openwaterpedia account on January 30 for “Inserting nonsense/gibberish into pages,” he must have felt that his own organization had betrayed him. When the WOWSA board unblocked him on February 22, I assumed Steven was back in WOWSA’s good graces, and they wouldn’t take my accusations seriously.

I’m pleased to say I was wrong.
Continue reading “Free Solo Confidential: An Update”

Free Solo Confidential: How The Openwaterpedia Vandal Gave Himself Away

Steven Munatones’ overreaction to an email leads to proof of his culpability for the 2019 Openwaterpedia sabotage.

I became, in the 1970s, the best ocean swimmer in the world. I held all the major records on planet Earth, out in the open sea.
—Diana Nyad, Wilshire Ebell, 7 Oct 2019

Diana Nyad arguably held a record in one major 1970s ocean swim — the Capri–Naples race — but she never completed any others, much less held records in them. In 1976, she attempted the major ocean swim on the planet, the English Channel, three times and failed three times. She never came close to being the best swimmer of the decade.

However, between February and April of 2019, someone vandalized Openwaterpedia — the self-styled “Wikipedia for the open water swimming world” — to make it look like she was.

The culprit used an ingeniously simple ploy, replacing every “7” with a “6” on the entries of the legitimately great swimmers of the 1970s. This effectively moved their 70s swims into the 60s.

The culprit made two other replacements as a diversion: “3” for “4”; and the Cyrillic “s” for the Latin “s” in every occurrence of “openwaterswimming,” thereby breaking every link.

Those changes and the alterations to over 3000 other Openwaterpedia entries provided a smokescreen that obscured the saboteur’s goal: Make Diana Nyad’s best-of-the-70s lie appear true.

Until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t be sure who went to so much trouble for Diana, though it seemed like it could be only one person: Steven Munatones. He had performed other shady tasks for Nyad before, some of which dovetail with the Openwaterpedia vandalism. The packet of documents he sent to the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF), presumably to prompt them to both ratify Nyad’s Cuba–Florida crossing and to nominate her for induction, was timed to arrive just after the vandal subtracted a decade from most of the greatest swims of the 1970s. Later, when it became apparent the ISHOF scheme had failed, he used Openwaterpedia to falsely ratify Nyad’s Cuba endeavor.

But I didn’t have absolute proof that Munatones — International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame inductee, World Open Water Swimming Associaton co-owner, and Diana Nyad’s most steadfast defender in the marathon swimming community — was responsible.

I do now.
Continue reading “Free Solo Confidential: How The Openwaterpedia Vandal Gave Himself Away”