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.

The Nyad biopic shows that Vasarhelyi and Chin haven’t a clue about the real Diana Nyad, so they could hardly portray her in her “full glory.” Their portrayal was superficial and unquestioning. Nyad is NOT complicated. She said so herself at the end of Rottenberg’s earlier piece, though she wasn’t alluding to her uncomplicated propensity to lie about everything.

For a swim to be classified as “unassisted,” generally the swimmer cannot be touched or use any equipment. On her Cuba swim, Nyad used several pieces of equipment, including a specially designed jellyfish suit and a string of lights to help with navigation, and was incidentally touched at various points. The movie does not explore the nuances of such assistance or the potential ramifications for the swim’s official ratification.

This wasn’t the only time the filmmakers implicated themselves in Nyad’s deceptions. This time, they went out of their way to imply that no one touched Diana when she was in the water. They even have Stoll saying that Nyad can’t get help putting on her stinger suit. “It’s against regulation,” she says.

But Nyad got plenty of help putting on her stinger suit. And her crew members touched her throughout the crossing in not-just-incidental ways.

Vasarhelyi says such relatively esoteric debates over rules and procedures within the swimming community are ultimately outside the bounds of the uplifting story “Nyad” sets out to tell.

So, apparently, is Nyad’s half-century of deceit.

Bonnie Stoll and Diana Nyad during the first day of the crossing. Image: Dawn Blomgren. Source: WOWSA Nyad report.

Article #2: “Swimming For Accuracy: How Much of Annette Bening’s ‘Nyad’ Actually Happened?”

The Messenger’s Jordan Hoffman joins the fray with a solo Q & A:

Was that attempted shark attack real?

The news outlet [Slate] . . . clarified that they were contacted by Nyad’s shark expert Luke Tipple (played by Luke Cosgrove in Nyad) and that the swimmer was “followed by three oceanic whitetips, two very large hammerheads, and what I suspect to be a large bull shark … it was hard to identify but it was at least 8 feet long.”

Tipple wasn’t on Nyad’s 2013 “expedition,” though the movie puts him there. In his response to Slate, so does he — though it could be a misunderstanding.

As for the sharks, Nyad likes to exaggerate all sources of real and imaginary trauma. Makes her seem more epic.

Am I the only one who watches movies and screams, “How do they pay rent?!?!” at the screen? We know that Nyad was a sportscaster on ABC (and also a book author) but who is this friend that can drop everything and transform into a coach? There’s a line in which Bonnie (played by Jodie Foster) says she’s going broke and has to deal with “her clients” but it is all very vague.

Good question! When it comes to everything around Nyad and money, things get murky. Her mother’s side of the family made a mint selling patent medicine beginning in the mid-1800s.

There’s also Diana’s house. According to Ms. Nyad, the former owner’s cleaning lady was desperate for her to have it.

Then there’s Nyad’s organization, Everwalk. Between 2017 and 2019, it received almost a million dollars from World T.E.A.M. Sports, a non-profit dedicated to “bringing adaptive and able-bodied individuals together,” not exactly Everwalk’s purview. Tax forms available upon request.

And it was endocarditis that prevented her from competing in the 1968 Summer Olympics.

Nope. Depending on her mood, even Diana sometimes admits she would never have been enough to make the Olympics.

Wasn’t there a brouhaha recently about Nyad and trans athletes?

A bit. In 2022, Nyad wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post saying, essentially, that transwomen athletes ought not to compete against cisgender women. She has, however, publicly reversed this position after “a lot of deep diving” on the issue.

Jordan, another great question. Nyad reversed her position three days before NYAD began its run in theaters. She now says she is “firmly on the side of inclusion.” But she never defines what “inclusion” means to her. Does it mean trans women competing alongside cis women? She doesn’t say. If you read her new position closely, it’s no different than her old one.

Yesterday — the day before NYAD began streaming — Diana interviewed Caster Semenya, the South African track star oft-embattled over her high testosterone levels. Was the timing a coincidence? Considering the ongoing PR scramble to save NYAD, I doubt it.

What was up with the crack she made in that clip from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson?

Since the crack implied that she’d been a Tonight Show guest before, it could just be that Diana Nyad’s a compulsive liar.


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