SwimSwam Brings Nyad’s ‘Eventual Comeuppance’ A Little Closer

SwimSwam Magazine and Riley Overend’s “Open Water Swimmers Have Mixed Feelings About New ‘Nyad’ Biopic Coming To Netflix” makes a couple of wrong turns but takes Diana Nyad skepticism seriously.

What I Loved About The Article

It’s a significant step toward what one legit best-of-the-’70s marathon swimmer called Nyad’s “eventual comeuppance.” I’m grateful SwimSwam was willing to risk Nyad’s wrath by publishing it.  And I appreciate all the time and effort journalist Riley Overend devoted to researching and writing the piece.

Other than a few 2013 articles just after Nyad’s crossing, this is only the second by someone outside of the marathon swimming community who takes Nyad skeptics seriously.

The first was Irv Muchnick’s 2019 article, “My Diana Nyad Problem — And Ours.” However, SwimSwam’s piece is the first to devote significant space to multiple Nyad lies and address questions about the biopic.

Not to mention that Overend spoke to marathon swimmers other than Steven Munatones. I’ve spent years begging journalists and event organizers to do that. I love how open-water swimmer and political science professor Loren King thoughtfully and lucidly explains the issues and connects them to a sport the biopic directors understand:

Climbing and marathon swimming share a common ethic. We look after each other, and we’re honest and transparent about how we do a route. That’s why the choice of Nyad for a biopic is so disappointing.

The Two Things I Don’t Love About The Article
  1. Statements that give a misleading sense of the percentages of Nyad skeptics and non-skeptics among experienced marathon swimmers

Overend writes that “some” marathon swimmers remain skeptical while “others believe [Nyad’s] a victim of intense scrutiny that is only amplified by ageism, sexism, and homophobia.” That may be true, but it’s misleading, like saying some people live in North Dakota and others do not, giving the false impression that North Dakotans and non-North Dakotans exist in roughly equal numbers.

Until SwimSwam published the article, I knew of only one person within the sport who actively supported Nyad. Now I know of two. I suspect a handful of others would come to her defense.

However, the majority of experienced marathon swimmers would not. Of those, some believe she may have swum from Cuba to Florida under her own power, and others don’t. But all believe she’s a charlatan to one extent or another.

So, it would have been more accurate to write, “Many within the sport still accuse her of fraud while a few believe she’s a victim of [insert unsubstantiated allegations here].” Which brings us to . . .

  1. Unsubstantiated Allegations Against Nyad Skeptics

Overend calls on accomplished marathon swimmer Jaime Monahan to represent believers:

I think some people are upset, like “Oh, I’ve swam even more than that, I should have a movie.” A lot of it is kind of ageism, even misogyny, I think even homophobia comes into play.

None of it is misogyny, jealousy, ageism, and homophobia — a subset of Nyad fans’ default attacks against her critics. Those fans have no evidence for their claims other than that Nyad happens to be a lesbian senior citizen who may or may not have swum from Cuba to Florida.

Nyad’s supporters could just as easily allege that her detractors hate anyone who wears their hair short and their pantsuits powder blue. But everyone would recognize that as nonsense. And it wouldn’t generate enough anger. So, Nyad’s devotees conjure allegations they know will fil true believers with righteous indignation.

Monahan goes on to say:

They try to be very factual in what they’re attacking, but I think that it’s, “This 64-year-old woman can’t do it.” It’s just a little jealousy and a lot of different factors.”

In other words, unsubstantiated accusations are good; facts are bad.

So, let’s return Lance Armstrong’s yellow jerseys and forget about the people he tried to destroy; release Elizabeth Holmes from prison and let her get back to her blood-testing machine; and kick President Biden out of the Oval Office so we can install our rightful leader, Donald J. Trump. [End sarcastic rant.]

I agree with Monahan about one thing: “We should be lifting each other up, not pulling people down.” She ought to share that sentiment with Diana Nyad, who rarely mentions another swimmer without denigrating them or their achievements. Rather than honor the six women who preceded her around Manhattan, Nyad tries to erase them from history. Rather than support other women athletes, she mocks their appearance and gloats over their failures. And rather than celebrate the great marathon swimmers of the 1970s, she claims she was the greatest of them all.

Speaking of the ’70s, that’s when Diana began dreaming of a self-reverential movie. “I’ve written a screenplay based on my life,” she said in 1978. “It’s kind of like Rocky. And the happy ending is the Cuba swim.” Diana thinks she deserves this film, just like she was entitled to that crossing. “I own it,” she said before abandoning attempt number three. “I worked so damn hard for it. I deserve it.”

So, she pretends nothing’s wrong, while she posts clips about her shoes, her living room, and invading her ex-lover’s home.

“Trust and believe she aint [sic] losing any sleep over any of it,” said a Facebook user responding to the comments of Nyad’s doubters.

But I ain’t ready to trust or believe any such thing.

Nyad’s policy has always been to ignore the skeptics, publicly anyway, so we can’t know how well she sleeps. But you have to wonder about someone who so often trumpets the soundness of her repose:

    • “Believe me, I sleep very easily, no doubts about what I’ve done or the fair and noble way I’ve gone about my life and my swimming career.” (Nyad to Rutemiller)
    • “We’re a noble, honest group, and we sleep very easily at night.” (Chicago Tonight)
    • “This swim was a noble quest and a matter of indisputable ethics to each one of us. We sleep easily, consciences clear that I swam across fair and square, shore to shore.” (Find a Way, p.  278)
    • “We were a noble group, and I never lost any sleep over what we accomplished.” (Town Hall Seattle)
    • “Believe me, I sleep very easily at night. I know what I’ve done.” (Politics & Prose)

Not to mention that I have trouble believing anyone who flogs their nobility and says “believe me” as often as she does. I’ll bet you my Diana Nyad and Livestrong wristbands that watching her biopic dream possibly drift away — while the world learns she’s George Santos in a jellyfish suit — causes her to lose a substantial amount of shut-eye.

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