Tue, Sep 10, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Skeptics question honesty of record-breaking swim

Swimmer Diana Nyad converses with her crew less than 4km off Key West, Florida, on

AP, MIAMI, Florida

Mitch Roffer of Melbourne-based Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service Inc said he got an e-mail questioning whether Nyad’s swim was a hoax, so he decided to look at the charts for himself. What he saw convinced him that she could do it.

“Many times that current runs west-east and you’re constantly fighting the current if you’re swimming north. In this case, it was in the shape of an S, and the angle was almost exactly from Havana to Key West,” Roffer said.

Hinkle, a Key West boat captain and acquaintance of Nyad’s, was called to be an observer for the swim when Steve Munatones, a former US national open-water coach, was unable to make it.

“I can say unequivocally she swam every stroke without question,” Hinkle said.

Since none of the various open-water swimming associations dictate how someone should swim from Cuba to Florida — officially accomplished only by Nyad and Susie Maroney, who used a shark cage — Nyad just had to follow generally accepted rules about not getting out of the water or using equipment such as fins.

Australian Chloe McCardel followed English Channel rules in her attempt to swim the Florida Straits in June. She had to be pulled from the water after 11 hours after being stung by jellyfish.

“Generally the rules are: You walk in, you swim across and you walk out, and you do it under your own power,” said Munatones, who consulted with Nyad for this swim and observed her attempts in 2011 and last year.

The elaborate, full-body wet suit and protective mask Nyad wore to protect herself from venomous jellyfish actually weighed her down, Munatones said.

“To put that on is like putting on a wedding gown in the ocean,” he said. “It’s different from the English Channel rules, but the water is different from the English Channel.”

To many, it seems Nyad has not exactly endeared herself to those in the marathon swimming community. Some consider her primarily concerned with gaining the spotlight instead of helping others advance the sport.

At her post-swim news conference, Nyad admitted that she had not been rooting for McCardel and that she was miffed that some members of her team would jump ship to work for a competitor.

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