An update to a page posted last month, this new version contains several significant changes. Most importantly, it shows that Diana Nyad knows the real reason she didn’t reach the Olympic trials, and it’s not the reason she says it is.
One of Diana Nyad’s favorite stories involves a debilitating illness—viral endocarditis—that kept her from qualifying for the 1968 Olympic trials. In her tale, she was practically a shoo-in to land a place on the U.S. squad, but fate and infection intervened:
In 1968 observers thought that Nyad was certain to make the Olympic team. “I was considered a ‘sure thing.’ The media considered it a tragic case when I didn’t make it. An attack of heart disease in the summer of 1967 slowed me down. I just wasn’t swimming fast enough to make the team. I was so disappointed, I stopped swimming. I went to India to meditate and do my drop-out thing for awhile. (Barnard Bulletin, 2 Feb 1976; complete issue here)
Actually, she got sick in the summer of 1966, but who’s counting?
We know that Diana Nyad went to graduate school. But when and for how long? Let’s see what Diana says.
A FEW WEEKS AGO, Diana Nyad hit 25K at newspapers.com. In other words, if you search for “Diana Nyad” (with quotes), you now get over 25,000 matches.
To commemorate this milestone, the Annex plans to publish a series of lists that will consist of quotations culled from articles and interviews. Each list will focus on a single subject important to Ms. Nyad.
Up until a few weeks ago, 2007 was the earliest I could find Diana Nyad claiming to be the first woman to swim around Manhattan (see The Score, 21 June 2007). I assumed, then, that Nyad waited for her six predecessors to pass away before leapfrogging to the front. The last-living of those six swimmers, Diane Struble, died in 2006. Continue reading →
Bonnie grabbed my shoulders…. She looked in my eyes, and she said, “Let’s find a way.”
And I took the leap. And we found our way. – Diana Nyad, Generation Bold, 18 Nov 2018, 4:51
To guarantee the success of her Cuba-Florida swim, Diana Nyad needed to construct a system that, ideally, would:
Overcome unfavorable currents at any time of the day or night.
Be easy to deploy and remove.
Be invisible—not only to outsiders (the press, curious boaters, etc.) but also to members of her team, most of whom would not be in on the plan.
Whatever method she settled on, she didn’t use it in previous attempts. She probably had not envisioned it yet, still dreaming that she could make the swim under her own power.
In the year leading up to the 2013 attempt, Nyad’s guide boat, Voyager, accompanied her during long practice swims. Again, whatever method she decided on, she had plenty of time during those swims to develop and test her system.
In her first memoir, Other Shores, Diana Nyad lists the rules of a 1975 race in Argentina:
The swimmer must wear only regulation suit, cap, goggles and grease. The swimmer must swim to the side of his boat, not behind it. (Greta Andersen was once passed in a race in the Nile by an Egyptian with a wide grin on his face; he had a tight grip on a rope tied to the back of his boat, and was eating a banana.) The swimmer may not at any time touch the boat, the shore or another person. (p. 35)
The boom Nyad used for her directional streamer gave her an artificial stern. Swimming behind it allowed her to break the rule without breaking the rule, no banana required.
Diana Nyad did not, in my not-so-humble opinion, swim from Cuba to Florida under her own power. In the next three posts, I’ll describe—and give evidence for—my theory of how she made it look like she did.
Starting with the rules laid down in my house when I was a child, I have never much respected society’s expected standards…. When some television executive tells me the story I’m working on has to have a linear structure and start at the beginning, I revolt and take my case to the highest command, arguing that to embark on this particular story in the middle and work the early part in later hits the sublime emotion of it. Ask Shakespeare about in medias res.
Diana Nyad is well into the second night of her fifth and final attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. She has made miraculous progress over the last two days, often moving at speeds more than double and sometimes triple her usual 1.5-2 miles per hour. At 9 p.m. on Sunday night, she’s chugging along at about three miles per hour—with the ostensible help of a strong current flowing northeast. Continue reading →
I have a theory about how Diana may have caught a ride during her Cuba-Florida crossing. Over the next month or so, I’ll make a case in support of that theory. Before that happens, though, we need to catch up on some currents.