Update, 29 June 2019: Added recently discovered 1981 Manhattan claim.
Six women swam around Manhattan Island before Diana Nyad:
Ida Elionsky (1916)
Image: courtesy of Joanna Langfield.
Mille Gade (1921)
Image: Vejle Amts Folkeblad.
Lottie Schoemmell (1926)
Image: City of Toronto Archives
Lillian Garrick (1929)
Image: c. 1944, courtesy of Denis Dunann
Anne Benoit (1930)
Image: City of Toronto Archives
Diane Struble (1959)
Image: Times Union
Below is a list of Diana Nyad’s spoken and written comments about the Manhattan swim. These statements reveal that Nyad frequently and deliberately lied. She knows the names, dates, and times of her predecessors. By 2007, however, she began ignoring their accomplishments and moved herself from 7th to 1st.
In her first memoir, Other Shores, Nyad wrote:
[T]he first woman completed the circuit [on September 24, 1916]. Ida Elionsky’s time was a very respectable 11 hours, 35 minutes. There were others who made the swim…., but I will simply mention the male and female record holders. Diane Struble…on August 15, 1959.… (p. 57.)
Janet Filips, writing for the Journal Herald in Dayton, Ohio, recorded Nyad’s earliest first (so far):
Digging through the library, she discovered 11 men had done it—and decided to be the first woman. (“I swam 20 years; I had enough”)
Diane Struble dies. All six of the women who preceded Nyad around Manhattan are now gone. (See “When Diane Struble Swam Lake George.”)
Nyad steals the lead again:
…no other woman had done it…. I was determined to be the first. (KCRW radio)
Like, I was the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island. (Walking Funny with Diana Nyad)
[I] was the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island…
After CNN investigates Nyad’s Manhattan claims, she issues a disingenuous retraction. A snippet:
…I hereby relinquish my title as the first woman. Nobody can ever take the glory of that day from me…. But for The First Woman, this honor belongs to others.
A year after her forced mea culpa, Nyad’s back in front:
In my teens and twenties, I was a world champion swimmer and held a number of world records, in the ocean particularly: first woman to swim around Manhattan Island, you know, and that sort of thing. (Diana: A Documentary)
There were some solo swims—I swam around Manhattan Island, was the first woman to do that, etc. (Beachbody Summit)
From the interview, “Never give up: the courage of swimmer Diana Nyad“:
When I became the first woman to circle Manhattan Island, there was an enchantment to stroking powerfully down the mighty Hudson River…. (Limitless Pursuits, 1 Jan 2015)
As if Nyad’s words were not stirring enough, the anonymous interviewer adds:
Whether you have an interest in swimming or not, the life of Diana and her passion to succeed will inspire while her humility is surely a lesson to us all.
I cried when I saw the stunning Vanity Cover photo of Caitlyn Jenner yesterday.
Bruce and I were the same age when he became a worldwide her back at the Olympic Games in 1976 and I made much more modest inroads as the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island.
“Modest” is not among the many words that come to mind here.
(Facebook, 2 June 2015)
She holds nothing back in her second memoir, Find a Way:
A little research told the stories of a handful of men who had swum all the way around, in the early 1900s, but it hadn’t been done since 1927….
I was the first woman to swim around Manhattan…. (p. 66)
I said, ‘Hey, my name’s Diana Nyad, and I’m going to be the first woman to swim around Manhattan Island.’
(From Mondays at the Mission.)
Before Cuba, way back in 1975, the swim that made my heart race was Manhattan. I was the first woman to circle the island.