In the summer of 2013, Nyad crossed from Florida to Cuba. She claims to have swum back. That endeavor was either one of the greatest accomplishments in athletic history or one of its most skillful hoaxes.
Giving evidence for the former, we have a compulsive liar and her crew. As evidence for the latter, we have everything else.
When Nyad completed her 2013 Cuba-Florida exploit, I was skeptical that she swam the whole way. I was relieved to find, on the Marathons Swimmers Federation (MSF) forum, that I was not alone in my skepticism. I followed DN’s post-Cuba-Florida shenanigans with amusement — the Times Square stunt, the new lies about Manhattan, the rising visibility of “one of the world’s greatest marathon swimmer[s].”
I had no intention of doing anything about it until I saw this:
There was Diana Nyad next to Vin Scully, recently retired after 67 seasons calling Dodger baseball games. And the winds shifted, and the icy waters of righteous indignation rose, and I had to act.
For years before I started swimming competitively and long before I started swimming in the ocean, I loved baseball. And, growing up in Claremont, California, about thirty miles east of Los Angeles, I loved the Dodgers. Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Walter Alston, and the rest—they were my heroes.
The voice of those heroes, the voice that electrified me during the day and lulled me to sleep at night, was Vin Scully. Add to that: the biggest thing my father and I shared was a love for baseball and the Dodgers. My dad, not a religious man, would probably have called Vin Scully — a man who has never sought recognition nor adoration but was recognized and adored by anyone who knew baseball — a saint. In other words, you don’t mess with Vin Scully.
By sharing a podium with Scully and the others, Nyad dishonors every one of them. By claiming to have swum in the Olympic trials, she dishonors all of those who actually did. By claiming to be the first woman to swim around Manhattan, she dishonors the accomplishments of the six pioneering women who preceded her. By saying that she completed an honorable and squeaky clean swim, she dishonors all of those who have made swims so honorable and squeaky clean that it went without saying.
So I looked back at the MSF forum posts, read Nyad’s books, watched her videos, listened to her podcast interviews, talked to jellyfish experts, etc., etc, etc. I tried to organize what I learned in a way that might eventually change Nyad-touters into Nyad-doubters.
Much of that information made it onto the Diana Nyad Fact Check site. Some of what I learned, though, didn’t quite fit, like the mystery of Nelly Nyad, Diana’s step-father’s first wife; Nyad’s claim that 560,000 people commented on her blog post; and Ashley Paramore’s cockatiel-infused parody of Nyad’s Oprah interview.
Now the misfits have a home. They also have a purpose: to help expose Diana Nyad.