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Diana Nyad's Cuba-to-Florida swim: Speed, nourishment questioned

September 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Diana Nyad inspired the world with her historic swim from Cuba to Florida, but now there's controversy. Some long-distance swimmers are questioning her feat, some even going so far as to call it cheating.

It was a plan that some called impossible: Swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys, 103 miles, through shark-infested waters. And the swimmer to attempt it was 64-year-old Diana Nyad. Last week when Nyad staggered out of the water, people around the world celebrated. She achieved her goal after four failed tries over more than 30 years.

But now there are questions about the validity of that swim.

Nyad's progress was tracked online via GPS. Long-distance swimmers wonder if she held onto a boat, pointing to a stretch of her swim where she reportedly hit Olympic gold medal speeds.

"During one 40-minute segment, she was averaging over 6 mph," said Evan Morrison, owner and co-founder, Marathon Swimmers Forum.

Skeptics also question how Nyad was able to skip food and water breaks after 30 hours of swimming.

"After about four or five hours a swimmer is pretty much running on fumes," said Morrison.

Eyewitness News was unable to reach Nyad for comment, but one of her observers previously attributed the increase in speed to strong currents in the Straits of Florida.

Nyad is a longtime regular at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center. People there say they are amazed at the amount of time she spent training in the pool. And that's why you'll be hard-pressed to find anything but support for this 64-year-old swimmer.

"It's probably because she's a 60-something-year-old woman and people don't give credit for what she's doing," said swimmer Sirena Pellarolo.

"I just don't think there is any validity to any type of charge like that," said swimmer Raoul Delasota.

But athletes have come under a lot of scrutiny recently after a long string of cheating revelations: the most infamous case being cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

"When you do do something exceptional, there is going to be criticism, and you have to be, I think, prepared to prove that you did something that exceptional," said swimmer Melanie Bermudez.

No one is accusing Nyad of using performance-enhancing drugs, but the long-distance swimming community is hoping Nyad will be able to answer their questions about her amazing feat. Nyad is slated to talk with them online Tuesday.


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