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Diana Nyad fires back against questions raised over her Cuba-Florida swim

From John Zarrella, CNN
updated 11:01 PM EDT, Wed September 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diana Nyad completed the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida last week
  • She says she is the first person to do it unassisted and without a shark cage
  • But questions have been raised about aspects of her swim
  • She insists she did it "in squeaky clean, ethical fashion"

Diana Nyad answers the questions about her historic swim on 'Piers Morgan Live' tonight, 9pm ET

(CNN) -- After dodging sharks and jellyfish during her swim from Cuba to Florida, Diana Nyad is now dealing with a different challenge: tough questions from her fellow marathon swimmers about the legitimacy of her achievement.

In the days since Nyad walked out of the water last week at Key West after swimming 110 miles, a stream of questions has come at her.

Could her speed have nearly doubled at one point? Did any of her team members touch her or support her? How could she have gone for hours without food or water?

The questions are significant because the answers could determine whether Nyad is officially affirmed as the first person to have completed the Cuba-Florida swim unassisted and without a shark cage.

Five thrill-seeking women breaking world records

Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, reaching a Key West beach on Monday, September 2, nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years. The 64-year-old endurance swimmer had a 35-person team to help clear her path of jellyfish and watch for sharks. Diana Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage, reaching a Key West beach on Monday, September 2, nearly 53 hours after jumping into the ocean in Havana for her fifth try in 35 years. The 64-year-old endurance swimmer had a 35-person team to help clear her path of jellyfish and watch for sharks.
Diana Nyad's record-setting swim
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Photo: Diana Nyad\'s record setting swim Photo: Diana Nyad's record setting swim
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During a conference call with more than a dozen of her peers Tuesday, Nyad was adamant that her swim was by the book.

"I swam," she said. "We made it, our team, from the rocks of Cuba to the beach of Florida, in squeaky clean, ethical fashion."

She said she never held onto a boat or another person "for any kind of flotation or support."

Her navigator, John Bartlett, described how the team picked up a current that had them moving nearly four miles an hour for several hours on the second day of the nearly 53-hour journey. That's how and when her speed nearly doubled, he said.

Diana Nyad's jellyfish-proof face mask

'No handlers'

Asked about reports she had gone for hours without food or water, Nyad said she never went more than 90 minutes.

Getting into the suit that protected her against potentially deadly box jellyfish required duct taping her booties and gloves. That meant she was touched, she said, but never supported.

There were "no handlers grabbing my ankles," Nyad said. "I was on my own steam entirely, but I was touched. I agree with it."

If the group of her swimming peers determines that the suit and the touching mean her swim was assisted, that could nullify her record claim.

One marathon swimmer who was on the call was unimpressed.

"She acknowledged that her crew touched her when she was putting on the jellyfish suit," said Evan Morrison, a co-founder of Marathon Swimmers Forum. "And I know she feels that was necessary, but I personally feel that puts in the category of an assisted swim."

Now, Nyad has to wait to see if the group of her peers agrees with Morrison, or with her.

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