Did Diana Nyad Get a Lift During Her 100-Plus Mile Swim?

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 9 2013 4:33 PM

Did Diana Nyad Get a Lift During Her 100-Plus Mile Swim? Critics Question the Data.

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US swimmer Diana Nyad begins her attempt to swim in a three-day non-stop journey from Havana to Florida on August 31, 2013.

Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images

One week ago, 64-year-old swimmer Diana Nyad became an international sensation, as she completed a 110-mile open water swim from Cuba to Florida. Admiration for Nyad’s success on her fifth attempt to complete the swim, however, turned to skepticism in some corners, as fellow marathon swimmers took to social media and online forums questioning the authenticity of Nyad’s feat.

Nyad’s 53-hour swim was unique, in part, because she was the first to make the nonstop swim without the aid of a shark cage. Her progress was tracked via GPS and a live blog from members of her team in a nearby support boat. Questions have been raised on the Marathon Swimmers Forum website, however, about some of the details of the trip, particularly whether it was, in fact, non-stop.

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Critics say some of the GPS data is inconsistent and point to one seven-hour stretch where Nyad’s average speed of 3 miles per hour was double her normal 1.5 mph average. Nyad’s team maintains the change in speed was due to favorable currents, but that hasn’t been enough to quiet speculation that she either got in or held on to the support boat during this stretch.

The data collected during the swim is set to be submitted to several swimming organizations, as well as Guinness World Records, for verification. But, the questions about the details of the data, and their authenticity, have grown loud enough that she is scheduled to meet “her peers in the swimming community” to address them, according to Nyad's spokeswoman.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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