By the time she’d reached her twenties, Diana Nyad knew she was worthy of a blockbuster. “I’ve written a screenplay based on my life,” she told the Miami Herald in 1978. “It’s kind of like Rocky. And the happy ending is the Cuba swim.”
After 45 years, Nyad’s Hollywood fantasy is about to come true. Nyad — starring four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening and two-time Oscar recipient Jodie Foster, directed by Oscar winners Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi — begins screening at festivals next month.
The film will have its International Premiere — its first showing outside of the U.S. — at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which runs from September 7–17. TIFF will post its schedule in mid-August.
Nyad will likely have its World Premiere — its first showing anywhere — at the Telluride Film Festival (TFF), which goes from August 31–September 4. (H/T Michael Patterson, who explains premiere designations on his Telluride Film Festival blog.)
Those TFF dates may sound familiar; subtract 10 years, and you get roughly the dates of Nyad’s Cuba–Florida “swim.” It began on August 31 and ended on September 2, 2013.
I’m sure Nyad plans to celebrate her tin Channelversary in a big way. But before she uncorks the champagne, she needs to ensure that the media and the public don’t discover the real Diana Nyad, the one dragging five decades of deception behind her. Even those involved in the film don’t know they made a movie about one of the most successful con artists in sports history.
Diana and her advisers would like to keep it that way. So, with a little help from her friends, she’s scrambling to cover up her fabrications and sanitize her past. Here are the locations where Nyad & Company have been scrubbing away her lies.
Shortly after TIFF’s announcement, someone began removing untruths from Nyad’s Wikipedia entry. At the same time, they reinforced the big one, the one that brought her a book contract, six-figure speaking fees, and a biopic.
The edits came from two separate Wikipedia accounts, with one edit from each account. Each edit included multiple changes (see Appendix).
As of today, they are the first and only edits from either account. They occurred so close together (within 13 minutes of each other) and with such similar changes that one person likely made them both. For this discussion, I’m going to assume a single editor.
Neither account has any text on its user page. In other words, someone appears to have created both accounts solely to undo Nyad’s fabrications.
The changes required inside knowledge. Given Nyad’s lack of technical know-how, it’s unlikely she made the changes herself. So, it was likely someone close to her. Or Nyad could be working with a PR firm or other organization with an interest in the biopic’s success.
The editor removed two untruths I’d suspected but could never disprove: Nyad’s national squash ranking and her tenure on Lake Forest College’s tennis team. However, those lies remain scattered across the internet in places that will be much harder to redact. For example, see these Washington Post, HuffPost , and Fort Lauderdale News articles.
Her Lake Forest bio still lists the tennis fabrication. Diana’s lies have been around so long that few people think to question them.
The editor also excised the Find a Way subtitle, One Wild and Precious Life. Nyad originally wanted to use the phrase — from Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day” — rather than Find a Way as the title of her 2015 memoir. But Oliver asked her not to.
Nyad says she respectfully deferred to Oliver’s request. However, articles posted around the time of Find a Way’s publication retain One Wild and Precious Life as the subtitle. I suspect the true “wild and precious life” story differs from the one Nyad tells.
In a move that has become a tradition with Nyad’s wiki-entry manipulators, the editor ratified her unratifiable crossing. The last time this happened, open-water swimming entrepreneur and Nyad fan Steven Munatones changed her entry on Openwaterpedia, a marathon swimming wiki, to read that the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) ratified Nyad’s crossing. Diana has also made this claim.
This time, Guinness World Records (GWR) implicitly became the marathon swimming governing body that sanctioned her crossing. But GWR is as much a governing body as it is a celestial one. Nyad’s endeavor remains unratified.
Two days before the Wikipedia changes, former sports agent and Michigan State University tennis player Molly Fletcher posted an interview with Nyad.
Here are a few examples of Nyad’s fabrication revisions:
- DEATH BY JELLY
Previously: 90-100% death rate from box jellyfish stings.
Revised: “Many people have died when they’ve been touched by that tentacle.”
- I AM THE GREATEST
Previously: “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” (clip from Wilshire Ebell presentation / “Best of the ’70s” page).
Revised: “In my 20s, which were the 1970s, I did a lot of swims around the world. There are a lot of great swimmers . . . ” (10:27).
- TRYING TO FIX THE DAMAGE DONE
Previously: To pass the time during swims, Nyad sings Neil Young’s “The Needle And The Damage Done” 1000 times — exactly the way he sings it — in 11 hours and 7 minutes, “not a second more, not a second less.” Or, in one case, 6 hours and 45 minutes. (See video below.) She makes similar nonsensical claims for other songs.
Revised: “So, I might sing ‘The Damage Done’ a thousand times, the whole song. That might — I forget the timing of that one — but that might take me 8, 9, 10 hours to sing the entire song. But I’m in it.”
Nyad rarely names other swimmers, particularly female ones, unless she intends to denigrate them. She did unctuously gush about Sarah Thomas after her four-way English Channel crossing in 2019. However, Nyad’s post arrived a few hours after my satirical one suggesting she didn’t know who Thomas was.
Acknowledging a great swimmer may be more painful for Diana than passing a kidney stone.
But her movie acts as a powerful anesthetic. In a recent Facebook post, she praised two other swimmers: Steve Stievenart for his Catalina Channel triple, which he completed “in an astounding 51 hours. Bravo, Steve!”
And she raved about 15-year-old Maya Merhige for her July 16 swim around Manhattan Island. (Unstated: “I was the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island,” one of Nyad’s most brazen lies. See Find a Way, p. 66.)
So, what’s going on?
My guess: Someone — a PR rep, perhaps — suggested that Nyad stop talking so much about herself and start saying nice things about other swimmers, no matter how much it hurts.
In fact, Nyad’s Facebook page now oozes humanity and positivity. Her last entry addressed the psychic benefits of fresh-cut flowers. The one before that touted the emotional benefits of walking. “Now’s not the time to say anything that might rock the boat,” our PR person may have advised Diana. “No more talk about trans issues, poorly constructed submersibles, and presentations at men-only clubs. Sweetness, light, and ‘modest bouquets’ only.”
~ ~ ~
Fletcher inadvertently pokes a sore spot when she asks Diana if an endeavor like her Cuba crossing “require[s] a level of selfishness?”
Narcissism underlies everything Diana does. She must fear that admitting to a speck of it is an admission to it all. So, you can feel her squirm as she struggles to respond, unwilling to accept responsibility for any selfishness whatsoever.
And so I definitely was [???]. I had the blinders on. And this [the Cuba swim] is what I’m doing. Nobody can talk me out of it.
But as I did get older, I listened more to ideas and ways to you know, manipulate. (Full selfishness section)
Huh? Where did that come from? And manipulate what — the Cuba–Florida crossing? Was that a confession? “Manipulation” could explain Nyad’s entire career.
Unfortunately, she doesn’t elaborate. I suspect she listened to someone with “ideas and ways” to manipulate her crossing, i.e., engineer it to make it look successful. No smoking gun yet, but her history of deceit makes it unlikely she took a three-day truth break in the summer of 2013.
Later on in the podcast, Nyad tells Fletcher, “We’ve seen the movie. It’s powerful. It’s beautiful. And it really captures — and I mean, get this, Molly, the movie is called Nyad!”
Diana never tells us exactly what Nyad captures. We’ll know soon enough, but it won’t be Nyad.
Correction, 5 Aug 2023: I erroneously awarded Jodie Foster four Oscars. In fact, she received four nominations and has won twice.
Changes to Diana Nyad’s Wikipedia Entry on July 22, 2023
|“although [the swim] has not been formally ratified by any recognised swim body.”||“In 2015, this swim was formally recognized by Guinness World Records.”||GWR does not ratify marathon swims.|
|“Nyad was also once ranked thirteenth among US women squash players.”||Removal of a lie only Nyad or a close associate would know about.|
|“She then enrolled at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where she played tennis for the ”Foresters” and resumed swimming. . .”||“She then enrolled at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where she resumed swimming . . .”||Removal of lie only Nyad or a close associate would know about.|
|“Nyad returned to south Florida to continue training with Dawson.”||“Nyad then enrolled in a PhD program for Comparative Literature at New York University in 1973 and also pursued her marathon swimming career.”||Doesn’t say she dropped out by the end of the year.|
|“Find a Way: One Wild and Precious Life”||“Find a Way”||Nyad wanted to call her memoir “One Wild and Precious Life.” Mary Oliver asked her not to. (Generation Bold, 18 Nov 2018)|
|USER TWO (Mvp427)|
|“Nyad said she would ‘wait and see’ if the swim would be officially ratified.”||“Nyad said, ‘We swam fair and square, squeaky clean across that thing’.”|
|As of 2022, the swim has not been ratified by any marathon swimming governing body.||The swim was accepted as an official world record in 2015 by Guinness World Records.||GWR does not ratify marathon swims.|