MIAMI — Diana Nyad's 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida has generated positive publicity and adoration for the 64-year-old endurance athlete — along with skepticism from some members of the small community of marathon swimmers who are questioning whether she accomplished the feat honestly.
On social media and the online Marathon Swimmers Forum, long-distance swimmers have been debating whether Nyad got a boost from the boat that was accompanying her — either by getting in it or holding onto it — during a particularly speedy stretch of her swim. They also question whether she violated the traditions of her sport — many follow strict guidelines known as the English Channel rules — by using a specialized mask and body suit to protect herself from jellyfish.
"When you know how hard it is, you kind of want those details," said Andrew Malinak, a Seattle long-distance swimmer who crunched the data available from the GPS positions tracked on Nyad's website and concluded that he didn't trust what he saw.
Nyad's navigator and one of the swim's official observers told the Associated Press this weekend that Nyad didn't cheat and that she was aided during the rapid part of her swim by a swift current. According to Nyad's team, she finished the swim Monday afternoon after roughly 53 hours in the water, becoming the first to do so without a shark cage. It was her fifth try,
Nyad's progress was tracked online via GPS by her team, and some critics say they think information is missing. Many wonder about a roughly seven-hour stretch when Nyad apparently didn't stop to eat or drink.
Malinak said the hours-long spike in Nyad's speed after 27 hours of swimming is particularly questionable — she went from her normal pace of roughly 1.5 mph to more than 3 mph, then slowed down again as she approached Key West.
Nyad's navigator and Janet Hinkle, one of the official observers for the swim, told the AP that Nyad didn't cheat. Navigator John Bartlett said the increased speed was due to the fast-moving Gulf Stream working in her favor, nothing more. The data will be submitted to three open-water swimming associations and the Guinness World Records for verification, Bartlett said.