National Columnist

Diana Nyad owes it to the marathon swim community to prove it

The nitpickers are coming after Diana Nyad, wanting her to verify some of the more questionable aspects of her historic swim from Cuba to Miami, and to that I say: Good.

Nitpickers aren't always good. Busybodies, jerks, little people -- sometimes, nitpickers are nitpicking just because they want to bring somebody down. But that's not the case here.

The case here is, the nitpickers are swimmers themselves. They don't want to bring down Nyad. They want to lift up their sport -- their niche sport, an event very few people care about or even know about until something like this happens, a 64-year-old woman swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, swimming non-stop for 53 hours without a shark cage despite jellyfish stings and shark scares and whatever else comes up in two-plus days of swimming the ocean.

To us, this is a curiosity. It's a cool story. And then we move on to something else, never to think about Diana Nyad again.

To the marathon swimming community, this isn't a curiosity. This is everything to them, and they want their sport honored, and so they want to make sure that Diana Nyad did it right. To them, given the data, they see Diana Nyad as their version of Barry Bonds -- someone who did something so historic at such an old age, with some of the numbers not quite adding up -- that they want to make sure.

And to be fair to the skeptics, they have reasons to be skeptical. Diana Nyad gave them reasons. She didn't continuously film her world-record attempt. Her speed rises and falls even more than the current would suggest is reasonably possible. There's a seven-hour stretch she went without food or water. People who know a lot more about this sport than you or me are saying it looks odd. They want to be sure.

They're not trying to drag down Diana Nyad -- they're trying to lift up their sport.

And if Diana Nyad's swim is worthy, that will come out in the wash and everybody will win -- including Diana Nyad. If she could survive two days in the Atlantic Ocean, she can survive a few more days of this.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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