“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.

I don’t doubt that Diana Nyad believes she deserves such allegiance. But that particular show of devotion didn’t happen. Nyad was born in New York. Her family relocated to Florida by the time she was three. She began swimming competitively in Ft. Lauderdale with Jack Nelson. She continued to swim with Jack Nelson in Fort Lauderdale throughout high school and even after she graduated.

Nyad didn’t follow her coach anywhere except back and forth across the pool.

Two more things to note. First, Nyad recounted her usual fictions for Kiewel just as she did for Julia Whedon two years later (see previous post and “Marathon Woman”). Again, though, the abuse tale had not yet entered the canon despite Nyad’s claim that she’s “been speaking out loud and strong” for almost half a century.

Second, 1976 is the same year that Nyad told Jane Shapiro of The Village Voice:

It’s true I used to lie…. Only to impress myself. I would tell a cab driver a lie—anybody. I don’t have to do that anymore. (“What Makes Diana Nyad Swim? An Absolutely Killing Ambition,” 2 Feb 1976)

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