MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – After becoming the first woman to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, Diana Nyad’s accomplishment has been met with skepticism by some members of the marathon swimming community.
Long-distance swimmers have taken to social media and online forums to debate whether the 64-year-old endurance athlete got into or held onto the boat accompanying her during the 110 mile trek. They say she could not have picked up as much speed as she says she did from the fast-moving Gulf Stream current.
Nyad’s team disagrees.
“Diana is proud of what she and her team accomplished last week, and she is committed to complete transparency,” said Alexandra Crotin, one of Nyad’s spokeswomen.
Nyad plans to meet Tuesday with “her peers in the swimming community,” Crotin said.
Her navigator and one of the swim’s official observers said over the weekend that Nyad swam in favorable currents the entire distance herself without aid.
According to Nyad’s team, she finished the swim Sept. 2 after roughly 53 hours in the water, becoming the first to do so without a shark cage. It was her fifth try over the course of more than 30 years.
Nyad’s progress was tracked online via GPS by her team — data that is now fueling speculation that Nyad stopped swimming or received assistance for hours at a time in the middle of the Florida Straits.
Many wonder about a roughly seven-hour stretch when Nyad apparently didn’t stop to eat or drink, recalling her 2012 attempt when she got onto the boat for hours during rough weather. Nyad eventually got back into the water to try finishing, but her team was criticized for delaying the release of that information to the public.
Some swimmers analyzing the available data say Nyad, who has said she tends to swim at a speed of roughly 1.5 mph, appeared to maintain sprinter’s pace or faster for a considerable amount of time.
Navigator John Bartlett said the increased speed was due to the Gulf Stream working in her favor, nothing more.
“At some points we were doing almost 4 miles an hour,” Bartlett said. “That’s just the way it works. If the current is in your favor at all, that explains it.”
Some of Nyad’s critics 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 bodysuit to protect herself from jellyfish.
Nyad never said she would follow English Channel rules, and she wore a full, non-neoprene bodysuit, gloves, booties and a silicone mask at night, when jellyfish are a particular problem, and removed the suit once she got over the reef on her approach to Key West.
The data collected by Bartlett and two observers will be submitted to three open-water swimming associations and the Guinness World Records for verification, Bartlett said.
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