This interview of Daniel Slosberg was conducted via email by Camille Lemieux ’17.
Lemieux: I see that you met Nyad in 1981 when she interviewed you after the Ironman Triathlon. At that point, what were your impressions of Nyad?
Slosberg: Actually, she interviewed me during the Ironman. She was working for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, a popular television program back then. She drove up beside me during the bike leg of the race and asked me a few questions. I didn’t have much time to form any impression at all. Previous to that, though, I had been aware of her aquatic feats because I was heavily involved in marathon swimming in the years prior to the Ironman. I was impressed by her single-minded drive and by what I believed at the time to be her aquatic skills.
Lemieux: Did you begin looking into her career history after you saw her involvement in the Distinguished Speaker series or beforehand?
Slosberg: After she claimed to swim from Cuba to Florida in 2013, I began to have serious doubts about her veracity. But that didn’t drive me to take any action. I was fine, at that point, with just letting it go. Then, last summer, I learned that Nyad had lied again about her Manhattan swim.
I began to feel like I should do something but wasn’t sure where to begin. Then I saw the notice for the Los Angeles Distinguished Speaker series, with Nyad’s photo right next to Vin Scully’s. As a kid, I was a big fan of the L.A. Dodgers, so that Nyad-Scully juxtaposition got me so angry that I had to do something. Given Nyad’s lack of integrity, she doesn’t belong anywhere near Scully. So I began serious research into her claims and started piecing together the site.
Lemieux: Please explain the process you went through to gather the data that you display on your site.
Slosberg: After Nyad’s 2013 Cuba-Florida swim, I wondered if anyone else had doubts about her claims. I searched the web and came across the Marathon Swimmers Forum and found that other experienced marathon swimmers were expressing reservations similar to my own.
After deciding to create the site, I went back and read the posts on the Nyad-related threads. These were a huge help because many the folks on the forum had put a lot of thought and research into Nyad’s various enterprises. One poster had taken all of the logs from the 2013 swim and collated them into one timeline, making it much easier to spot the gaps and to see that Nyad’s “very specific long notes for every minute” were anything but.
From reading the discussions, I could see who was really interested and knowledgeable about Nyad’s career. I contacted a few people to see if they had anything to add. These folks, in turn, put me in touch with others who had an interest in calling Nyad to task and had information to share.
I read Nyad’s two memoirs, Find a Way (from 2015) and Other Shores (from 1978). The latter was a revelation–in it, Nyad writes at length about her Manhattan swim and about the other women who swam before her, directly contradicting her later claims of being first. I also read all the articles about her that I could find. There were a number of detailed and fascinating pieces from the 70s, written just after Nyad started gaining notoriety. I list those on my references page.
I also watched the “The Other Shore”–the documentary Timothy Wheeler (Nyad’s nephew) made about her 2013 Cuba-to-Florida attempt. This documentary miraculously materialized on-line the day after the swim. I also watched other brief documentaries, Nyad’s TED talks, and any other video that I could find.
I searched the web for anything I might have missed. This led to some valuable information, like her extended radio riff on the Manhattan lie. And speaking of extended riffs, there’s an amazing 5-part series of blog posts from Donal Buckley, one of the founders the Marathon Swimmers Federation: “The Diana Nyad Controversy, a personal reflection.”
Part 1- Context and background
Part 2- The Panel Invitation
Part 3 – Diana Nyad, Penny Dean and me
Part 4 – Assisted or Unassisted?
Part 5 – Probity & Integrity
Lemieux: How have you tried to get the information you collected out to the public thus far, and have you contacted Nyad about the information gathered?
Slosberg: Three weeks before I made the site public, I attempted to contact Nyad to give her a chance to correct any inaccuracies or otherwise comment on the site. Two weeks passed with no response, so I emailed two people with whom I know she has contact–Bonnie Stoll and Steve Munatones–and asked them to pass along the website information.
Another week went by with no response from Nyad, so I removed the password protection from the site, posted the address on Facebook and on the Marathon Swimmers Forum, and started messaging anyone who I thought might be interested in the site, in writing about the site, or in helping publicize it. I also notified companies that sponsor Nyad, such as FINIS and magazines that carry those sponsors’ ads.
Lemieux: What do you hope Lake Forest College students and/or the general public will take away from your site?
Slosberg: I want people to realize that Nyad is not who she says she is. She claims never to have been anything but “an honest, straightforward person.” Yet she stood before Lake Forest’s 2015 graduating class and lied about swimming in the Olympic Trials. She claims that she supports women’s rights, yet she has no qualms about ignoring the six women who circled Manhattan Island before her. She claims that she swam all the way from Cuba to Florida, yet she never proved it, nor did any organization ever ratify it as she claimed they would. My ultimate hope is that the information on the site will move someone to come forward and tell us what really happened in the Florida Straits in the summer of 2013.
Lemieux: Do you have any additional comments?
Slosberg: Re: the Lake Forest commencement address. If you listen to the clip on my site, you can hear Nyad hesitate at “three are going on to…,” just at the point where she can give herself an out, as she did in her 2014 commencement address at Middlebury. There, she glancingly alludes to a pre-Olympic Trial event. This time, at Lake Forest, she leaves reality in her wake and swims at the Olympic Trials themselves.
Finally, I would love to believe that a 64-year-old woman could swim 110 miles and be fit enough to give a press conference the next day. But given the lack of adequate proof, and given Nyad’s history of dishonesty, it’s just too good to be true. And you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true. Nyad herself, in her post-swim press conference, calls her quest a fairy tale. “As it turned out,” she said, “the fairy tale worked out very nicely.” It may have worked out nicely, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a fairy tale.