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An Epic Swimmer Gets an Epic Profile

At age 55, Burt Lancaster starred in The Swimmer, a feature film based on the John Cheever short story. “The Swimmer” is also the deceptively straightforward title for a rip-roaring profile in the August issue of Out magazine of 63-year-old Cuba-to-Florida athlete Diana Nyad.

The feature interview was put together by Shana Naomi Krochmal who, along with being a contributing editor for Out magazine, is also a full-time supervising producer of digital with Current TV in Los Angeles. Krochmal has already gotten some nice traction with this interview at outsports.com, Jezebel and elsewhere. It’s easy to see why. From the get-go, the article dives right in:

“I was swimming every stroke with anger at that man and that sexual abuse,” she says. “That man” was her high-school coach back in Florida, an Olympian and Hall of Fame vet, and “that sexual abuse” was the four years of rape she endured under his tutelage. “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.”

She shared that closely guarded secret with her best friend a few years later, only to discover they had the same story — and so did other girls. When Nyad told her mother, “she said, ‘Oh honey, don’t use words like rape. He’s a man of prominence.’ ” Over the years, as the accusations became public, the coach denied everything. It took decades for Nyad and her mother, who dealt with the onset of Alzheimer’s, to forge a close relationship.

This is an epic portrait of a hard-charging author, freelance journalist, businesswoman, motivational speaker and lesbian, culled from an interview with Nyad in LA. At press time, the woman who in 1975 swam around Manhattan in eight hours was in a holding pattern with regards to making her fourth Cuba-to-Florida attempt.

Until Nyad goes live with that one-woman show based on her motivational talks – to be directed possibly by Joshua Ravetch (Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking) – this article is the next best thing.

Update – 08/21/12: On her fourth try – a day before her 63rd birthday, Nyad was forced to call it quits after 41 hours because of a nasty weather cell.

[Photo credit: Catherine Opie]

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