Diana’s GREAT Surprise, part 3: Nyad Abdicates The Throne . . . For Now

The final entry examining Diana Nyad’s bizarre response to being caught in her Manhattan lie.

part 1 | part 2

Chicago Tribune front page, August 7, 1926, the day after Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Nyad Invokes Ederle, and All is Lost

After being recognized as the first woman to swim around Manhattan in both highly regarded press and swimming circles...

Diana, we’ve been through this already. It never happened.

…(no other than Gertrude Trudy Ederle entertained me in her home in Queens many times in the 1970’s, never recounting any of the stories of her women contemporaries of the 1920’s having swum around Manhattan)…
Mr. Wizard and Tooter Turtle.

Help, Mr. Wizard! Gertrude Ederle and Diana Nyad in the same breath? Nooooo! Diana Nyad is to Gertrude Ederle as Rosie Ruiz is to Kathrine Switzer, as James Frey is to Alice Walker, as Jim Bakker is to the Dalai Lama.

How do Ederle and Nyad differ? Let me count some of the ways:

    1. Ederle swam because she loved the water. Nyad detested swimming.
      • Ederle: “To me, the sea is like a person—like a child that I’ve known for a long time. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I swim in the sea I talk to it. I never feel alone when I’m out there.” (obit in the Economist).
      • Nyad: “…speaks of the ocean and its perils as though it were her personal enemy, her private torture chamber . . .” (See Diana Nyad and Swimming Torture).
    2. Ederle shied away from attention. Nyad swam for it.
      • Ederle: She was not “a publicity-seeker, just a competitive young woman who loved to swim.” [Mortimer]
      • Nyad:

        (From “A Free Spirit Tries to Plunge into History,” Miami News, 16 June, 1978. Page 1, page 2, page 3. Please note: Nyad was not “the best…for eight years”—see World’s Greatest.)
    3. Ederle was one of the greatest swimmers in history. Nyad wasn’t even close.
      • Ederle: Held multiple world records from short to long distances in the pool and won multiple Olympic medals. When she swam the English Channel, she became not only the first woman and sixth person to do so, but she completed it two hours faster than the fastest man.
      • Nyad: Claimed to have swum in the Olympic trials but didn’t; attempted the English Channel three times without success; was “a very mediocre swimmer with a very good publicist” (according to Doc Counsilman).
    4. Ederle never lied about her swims.

I could go on, but the DN Fact Check Boredom Abatement Committee has asked me to move any further comparisons to a separate page.

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As for Ederle not speaking up about “her women contemporaries,” we can assume that Trudy had other things on her mind. All of the following Ederle info comes from Glenn Stout’s Young Woman & The Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered The English Channel And Inspired The World.

Rachel Homan, skip of Canada’s
2017 world-champion curling team.
  • 1916 (Ida Elionsky)
    Ederle was 11 years old. A typical kid, she had just learned to swim the year before. Ederle didn’t do any organized training until 1918. She probably knew as much then about marathon swimming as I know now about curling.
  • 1921 (Mille Gade)
    Ederle still swam for the pure joy of it. Not until the following year did Ederle the kid become Ederle the champion. To the great surprise of even her coaches and teammates, she set a slew of world records in a single race in August of 1922. At that point, swimming became more than just a pleasurable pursuit.
  • 1926 (Lottie Schoemmell)
    Ederle was busy becoming the first woman to swim the English Channel.
  • 1929 & 1930 (Lillian Garrick & Anne Priller Benoit)
    The quiet and shy Ederle was still reeling from the consequences of her English Channel triumph. “If I’d known how it was going to be,” Ederle said in 1930, “I don’t think I’d have done it.” And the Great Depression probably also diverted her attention.
  • 1959 (Diane Struble)
    Life had settled down for Ederle. She might have heard about Struble’s swim. But, assuming Nyad actually visited, why would Ederle think to mention Struble years later? If Ederle thought about it at all, she probably assumed that Nyad would be honorable enough to celebrate rather than ignore those who preceded her around the island.

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Quite Frankly Stunned!

…I am quite frankly stunned to hear now that this title is probably not mine to claim.

“Probably” not hers to claim? She has attached herself to this lie like a barnacle to a decrepit old boat. She’s staying put despite having known the truth for almost 40 years and despite conclusive evidence attesting to her deceit. The same goes for her Cuba-Florida crossing: all of the evidence shows that she’s lying, but she won’t let go.

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As a sports journalist and a feminist all my life, I take both joy and pride in honoring all great women athletes of all eras, but most especially those pioneers of early years who never found it easy to be strong, courageous, physical specimens in a male-dominated society.
Bullshit is as bullshit does.

Bullshit. It’s the bullshit of a bullshitter par excellence, but it’s still just bullshit. A genuine feminist who supported early female pioneers would— wait for it — support early female pioneers, not grind their accomplishments into the sand.

Diana Nyad doesn’t care about anybody except Diana Nyad.

I look forward to the unfolding of the true history of women swimming around Manhattan.  

And, even though we don’t yet know the absolute truth as to that history, I hereby relinquish my title as the first woman. Nobody can ever take the glory of that day from me. And the title of fastest at the time still goes under my name. But for The First Woman, this honor belongs to others. [sic]

The First Woman honor can’t belong “to others.” It can only belong to one person, and that person is Ida Elionsky. Second goes to Mille Gade, third to Lottie Schoemmell, fourth to Lillian Garrick, fifth to Anne Priller Benoit, sixth to Diane Struble, and seventh to Diana Nyad.

We know the absolute truth. The true history has unfolded. No waiting.

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That does it for “Diana’s GREAT Surprise.” A few questions remain. Rest assured, however, that the DN Fact Check investigations unit continues its work around the clock charting Diana Nyad’s swirling eddies of obfuscation.

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