All The Lies She Could Not See: TIME’s “Deeper Story” Behind NYAD

Diana Nyad says her lies are “ancient history.” A recent TIME piece proves otherwise.

In an August Los Angeles Times article, Diana Nyad says her fabrications are “ancient history.” However, a recent TIME item demonstrates once again that you shouldn’t believe a serial liar when she says she’s stopped lying.

From “What Makes Diana Nyad Swim? An Absolutely Killing Ambition,” The Village Voice, Jane Shapiro, 2 Feb 1976.

TIME journalist Alice Park told “The Deeper Story Behind Netflix’s Nyad” by asking Diana Nyad questions and believing her answers.

First, though, Park shows she misunderstands the fundamental controversy regarding Nyad’s crossing:

Marathon swimmers remain divided over whether the swim was “unassisted” or “assisted.”

Only a few marathon swimmers — if any — cling to the “unassisted” myth, but we do disagree on whether she completed the crossing under her own power.

[NYAD:] “I understand why someone might be rankled if they don’t get any recognition for all of that training and achievement.”

What rankles marathon swimmers — most of whom don’t thirst for wide recognition — is that the most recognized person in the sport is a serial liar who cares little about marathon swimming beyond the self-aggrandizement she can extract from it.
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Two Journalists Tell Us What’s Fact And Fiction In NYAD. As If!

Two new articles try to help us sort through the unsortable mess called NYAD.

Detail from an image in The Wall Street Journal’s article about how Nyad acquired her home.

Article #1: “Netflix’s Diana Nyad biopic: What’s fact and what’s fiction?”

From the Los Angeles Times’ Josh Rottenberg:

Criticisms over Nyad’s history of making inflated claims about her career have cast a shadow over the inspirational film.

It’s not just her “inflated claims about her career” but her exaggerations, hyperbole, and outright lies about practically everything.

“Nyad” co-directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin . . . say they did extensive research on Nyad before jumping into the film.

I would love to know what their “extensive research” entailed. Did they look into other fictitious swims Nyad claims to have completed? Did they look at her despicable treatment of other athletes?

Or did they talk only to Steven Munatones, an uncredited advisor on the film, who would believe Nyad walked from Cuba to Florida if she told him she did?

“She is unabashedly a complicated, gray character in real life and we went to great lengths, as did Annette, to portray that in its full glory,” Vasarhelyi told The Times.

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Pyrenees Research Update: The Cuba–Florida Virtual Walk Description

Diana Nyad’s written description of her Florida Straits virtual walk contains some of her usual lies as well as an omission that’s heartless, thoughtless, or some combination of both.

Above: Walter Poenisch crossing the Florida Straits in 1978. Via “Lost at Sea: Walter Poenisch, his Cuba-to-Florida swim, and his stolen honor.” Diana Nyad includes this image in her Cuba-Florida walking notes without giving the source and without naming Poenisch.

Nyad includes old standbys like the one about her Cuba-Florida precursors:

The best men and women swimmers had made their valiant attempts. (notes, part 1)

(Only six have attempted the crossing.) And her mother-of-all box jellyfish lies:

Most people who have ever been touched by the Box have died instantaneously. (notes, part 1)

(Most people survive box jelly stings.)

Nyad’s Breathtaking Lie of Omission

In part two of her notes, Nyad acknowledges one of her two successful predecessors, an “Australian woman named Susie Mulroney” (it’s “Maroney”), but she doesn’t mention the other, Walter Poenisch, the man whose life she destroyed.

However, she includes a photo from his crossing (see above). I’m not sure if she meant her EverWalkers to think it’s Maroney, or if it’s Nyad’s way of acknowledging-without-acknowledging the man about whom she said,

He does not swim by the rules. He’s a gimmick. He’s a cheat. In the world of sports, he’s a cheat. (New York Times, 14 Jul 1978)


With all due respect to the aged, a man who’s 64 years old and very overweight is not going to swim for two days nonstop. (Miami Herald, 26 June 1978)

How about a woman who was 64 years old and had lied for 40 years nonstop?