Ratification Infestation: Notes on WOWSA’s Retroactive Recognition of Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida Crossing

On August 14, 2019, almost six years after Diana Nyad walked ashore on Smathers Beach, the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA) retroactively ratified Diana Nyad’s Cuba-Florida crossing. The actual change is meaningless, but the way it occurred has too many juicy bits to ignore.

Notification of the swim’s ratification arrived in the form of a late-night edit [1]  to part of Diana Nyad’s Openwaterpedia entry. Before the edit, it read:

Most of the questions raised by experienced marathon swimmers worldwide remain unanswered. As of 2019, the swim has not been ratified or authenticated by any official swimming governing body.

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“New Evidence…” Addendum: The Barnard Bulletin

In her New York Times op-ed, Diana Nyad declares, “I’ve been speaking out, loud and strong, for nearly five decades now.” That’s true. What she’s been speaking out loud and strong about, however, is a different story.

In 1976, Nyad coached the Barnard College swim team. That year, Barnard student Jean Anne Kiewel interviewed Diana for the Barnard Bulletin. According to Kiewel, Nyad said that she “started swimming in California and moved to Florida when her coach did.” (“Barnard’s Water Nymph: the Nyad Mystique,” 2 Feb 1976)

Following her coach from one coast to another would mean that swimming was so important to her, and that she was so good at it, that her family would uproot itself and travel across a continent to support her endeavors.
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