We know for certain that Diana Nyad lies. She lies frequently, brazenly, and—in all likelihood—compulsively. But why?
An excessive need for adoration drives her deceit. To receive that adoration, Nyad must be the best—must be “epic”—at everything. She must swim epically, play squash epically, even epically wake up in the morning. Since she can’t be epic at everything—no one can—she must act (and write and talk) as if she is.
Why does Nyad require so much adoration? In her 2011 article Less Than Artful Choices: Narcissistic Personality Disorder According to Donald Trump, Maria Konnikova compares utterances of the not-yet-president Trump to the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. It turns out that you can plug in”Nyad” wherever you see “Trump” and, voilá, the story still works. Konnikova’s piece presents the best explanation I’ve found for Nyad’s excessive need to be adored: Diana Nyad is a narcissist’s narcissist, an apex egoist in the Trumpian style.
Diana Nyad loves to tell stories. She loves to tell stories about big things (“I was the first woman to swim around Manhattan”) and little things (“Margie and I…started eating all our dinners in Miami at Benihana”) and all sorts of things in between.
You’ll find a theme here and throughout all of Nyad’s deceptions: she will say or do whatever she thinks will enhance her public image. She will distort the truth, ignore the rules, slander other swimmers, and denigrate or disregard the achievements of other marathoners while claiming those achievements as her own. It’s all okay in her book as long as it furthers her cause: the deification of Diana Nyad.
Without Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup and the fortune it generated, Diana Nyad as we know and love her would not exist. So—because I messed it up the first time—here’s a re-examination of Nyad’s “Lucy Winslow” claims in Find a Way.
“The Curtis family,” wrote Diana Nyad,
“…had come from a century-old successful clan of New Yorkers, starting back in the early 1800s with the first Lucy Winslow, one of the first female physicians in Manhattan….” (p. 36)
As I wrote in …The Lies in Find A Way, Lucy Winslow, Nyad’s great great grandmother, came from Maine, didn’t move to New York until the mid-1800s, and was not a physician.
But Miss Lucy Winslow was not the Mrs. Winslow of soothing syrup fame. Diana confused Lucy with her mom. Before I explain, we’ll need a bit more background from Find a Way: Continue reading →
Are you interested in proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that you completed a very long swim? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Diana Nyad says that she swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. Sarah Thomas asserts that she swam 104 miles in Lake Champlain.
Before you attempt to join the 100-mile club, use this handy chart to compare the way these two very different athletes went about bolstering their claims. [Update, 12/31/17: Added “including an accurate list of all crew members” to AFTER THE SWIM section.] Continue reading →
Some excerpts from Helen Dudar’s “Diana Nyad’s Magnificent Obsession.”
I had been itching to get my hands on this article for months. The L.A. Central Library has New Times on microfilm, so I finally gritted my teeth and struck off down the 10. Turned out to be worth it just for the dune buggies. [Update: I can’t believe that I forgot to include the most egregious, self-serving, and grandiose bit. See the Gertrude Ederle quote below.]
After years of writing and talking about herself, Diana Nyad misplaces three decades.
On a recent episode of the “Wild Ideas Worth Living” podcast, host Shelby Stanger asked about Diana Nyad about her expulsion from Emory University, an incident that Nyad has recounted numerous times. Surprisingly, she claimed that she had little memory of her teens, twenties, or thirties. She concluded, “…I don’t remember Emory at all.” Below are some excerpts from Nyad’s remarks. (For the full passage, please see “Diana Nyad on her memory.”)
Diana Nyad has hyped herself for years by saying that she was the greatest marathon swimmer of the seventies. But she was never in the race.
Countless articles and websites hawk variations of “Back in the 1970s, DIANA NYAD was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world” (LiveTalks LA ). You can find other iterations broadcast widely online and in print: TED, Woman Fails in Attempt…, Nyad’s website, etc.
We can trace this fiction back to two sources: Diana Nyad and her publicists. To paraphrase the great swim coach Doc Counsilman in “Go For the Gold, Doc,” Nyad was a mediocre swimmer who conned the public into thinking she was a great one.
The New York Times Opinion section’s Facebook Live event with Diana Nyad on Friday left plenty to talk about. I’d expect nothing less from a storyteller of Nyad’s caliber.
Diana Nyad’s conversation with Alicia Wittmeyer of the New York Times is the most disturbing thing I’ve heard from her. That’s saying a lot given the quantity of Nyad material that I’ve listened to in the last few years. The smugness, the fluidity of truth, the Trumpian rhetoric—it’s all there. But now she’s using her own alleged abuse to latch on to others’ horror in order to satisfy her own needs.
Nyad’s stories often shift from telling to telling. This time was no different. Continue reading →