Some hardcore marathon swimmers are questioning the validity of Diana Nyad’s historic swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida last week.
The accusations range from petty (she had someone help her eat) to serious (she got on the boat at one point), and they’re popping up on various swimming forums online.
Nyad, age 64, is the first person to ever make the 110-mile swim unaided.
Here’s what the sceptics are saying:
- It’s strange that Nyad didn’t have someone continuously film the entire 53-hour swim
- There was no independent news media following the entire race, which there were during her past attempts
- There was a spike in her swim speed in the middle part of the race, and then a return to her normal pace at the end — which some are speculating means she got on the boat
- The two independent observers on her support boat knew Nyad
Nyad maintains that she didn’t cheat, and swam every stroke of the 110 miles.
Her team says she got a boost from a rare, once-a-month current that peaked at 4 miles per hour during the swim’s second day — which accounts for the spike in speed that her critics find sceptical. A scientist told the New York Times that this explanation makes sense, and that she hit the current at the exact right time.
Most of the other criticisms from Nyad’s sceptics have to do with marathon swimming etiquette.
A forum on MarathonSwimmers.org is filled with complaints about how much help Nyad was getting during her swim.
Commenters say that the fact that handlers helped Nyad eat and apply cream cheapen her accomplishment. In addition, her wetsuit and jellyfish mask wouldn’t have been allowed under English Channel swimming rules, though Nyad never said she was going to follow those rules.
One commentator even accused her of swimming too slowly (which is ironic since she’s also being accused of going too fast), writing, “Unbelievably slow. So slow one has to question whether to call it swimming.”
Nyad has submitted the data from her swim to three open water swimming federations and the Guinness Book of World Records, the AP reports.
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