Did Diana Nyad Cheat on Cuba-to-Florida Swim?
On September 2, 64-year-old Diana Nyad -- who started swimming as a seventh-grader growing up in Fort Lauderdale -- completed her lifetime goal of swimming from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It was a goal she had attempted and failed four times prior. She made headlines around the world for completing the epic 103-mile, 53-hour journey.
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But now, some hard-core swimmers are questioning her accomplishment and pressuring her to release technical data from the swim.
Serious swimmers who are attempting to set records frequently follow the so-called "English Channel rules", which dictate that swimmers can't have contact with a support boat and can't wear a suit that offers buoyancy or thermal protection.
On the Marathon Swimmers Forum, long-distance swimmers are saying that Nyad clearly didn't follow those rules because she wore a special suit to protect her from jellyfish stings and her team helped grease her up and feed her.
But they're also asking:
-- How could she possibly have swum seven and a half hours without feedings at one point?
-- Why was the independent observer onboard to verify her swim not someone known in the swimming community?
-- How did she swim in a remarkably straight line when the Gulf Stream current is so powerful and would typically push swimmers off course?
-- How could she have sped up to nearly double her typical swim speed during a stretch that began after 27 hours of swimming?
-- Could she have gotten into the boat or been pulled by it at any point during her swim?
Some skeptics have even looked at weather charts and compared GPS data to poke holes in the account from Nyad's team.
Over the weekend, Nyad's independent observer -- Janet Hinkle, a personal acquaintance of Nyad's -- said, "I can say unequivocally she swam every stroke without question." Her team maintains that she did not cheat and that she was lucky enough to have been pulled along with the Gulf Stream current midway through her trip, which gave her extra speed. They say they never claimed to be using English Channel rules.
Nyad's team is open to suspicion partly because in 2012, during a prior attempt of the Cuba-to-Florida route, she got in a boat for several hours during stormy weather -- but her team did not disclose that fact immediately. In June, another swimmer attempted the same route, using English Channel rules -- and Nyad reportedly admitted she hadn't been rooting for her.
Her team says the data will be released for verification by outsiders soon.