Five Things You Didn't Know About Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad
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By now you know Diana Nyad is a long distance swimmer who captivated the world with her long-distance swim from Cuba to Florida. On September 2, 2013, age 64 and on her fifth attempt Nyad swam 110 miles in 53 hours to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage.

After completing the swim Nyad said, "I wanted it to be a lesson for my life that says, be fully engaged. Be so awake and alert and alive every minute of every waking day."

Diana Nyad is an inspiration to many for her athletic feat, but there are many other amazing things about Diana Nyad. Here are a few things about Diana Nyad that you probably didn't know:

Diana Nyad is a Lesbian

Nyad came out as a lesbian at 21 after she went to a friend's surprise birthday party in Ann Arbor and found out everyone there was gay. She had her first sexual experience with a woman that night. In an interview with Out magazine, she said, "I stayed for two weeks and went out every night and slept with everybody in the town." Before that, she says, "I didn’t have any sexuality, I just knew I didn’t want to be with men. But I thought it was all just because of the trauma, you never know, but I think I was gay from day one."

Nyad is a Sexual Abuse Survivor

The trauma that Diana Nyad refers to is the sexual abuse she experienced at the hands of her high school swim coach. The anger that she felt towards him propelled her long-distance swimming. "I was swimming every stroke with anger at that man and that sexual abuse," she says.

Like so many survivors of sexual abuse, Diana was confused about what was happening to her. In the Out magazine interview, she said, "I was so naïve. I hated him and loved him and felt humiliated and denigrated and so afraid, so terrified to be the last one left or the first one there in case I might be taken or attacked. At the same time, I felt like the chosen one."

Diana Nyad speaks about being a sexual abuse survivor in order to help others who might be in similar situations to understand what is happening to them and to get help.

Nyad Was Expelled From College

Nyad was thrown off of Emory University after she jumped out of a fourth-floor dormitory window in a parachute. She later graduated from Lake Forest College in Chicago majoring in French literature. (Source: Al Schoenfield Media Award website.)

She Set a World Record in Her Very First Race

Diana Nyad discovered marathon swimming in 1970. She set a women's world record of 4 hours and 22 minutes in her very first race, a 10-mile (16km) swim in Lake Ontario in July 1970.

She's been inducted into both the National Women's Sports Hall of Fame (1986) the International Swimming Hall of Fame (2003).

Nyad Is an Author and a Journalist

Diana Nyad has written three books. Her first Other Shores (1978) is an autobiography about her life as a long-distance swimmer. She wrote a women's training book called Basic Training for Women (1981) authored a biography of NFL player Keyshawn Johnson called Boss of Me: The Keyshawn Johnson Story.

Diana Nyad is also a journalist, best known as a commentator on National Public Radio. She has also written for The New York Times, Newsweek magazine, and other publications.

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