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Al Schoenfield Media Award

2002 Diana Nyad


Diana Nyad is no stranger to swimming. She has been in and around it all her life. She learned to swim before she was a year old. Growing up in Fort Lauderdale, she joined the Pine Crest School swim team at age 11 when the geography teacher offered A’s to anyone who went out for the team. She was talented and later became Florida State High School champion in the 100y backstroke. A bout with viral endocarditis all but put an end to any hopes of Olympic dreams.


Life around Diana was never normal or ordinary. She was thrown out of college (Emory University) for jumping out the fourth floor dormitory window in a parachute. But later she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Lake Forest College in Chicago majoring in French literature. She is also fluent in German and Spanish.


Still determined to swim, she was introduced to Marathon swimming in 1970 by Buck Dawson, ISHOF executive director. Physically strong and psychologically attuned to distance swimming, Nyad trained at Dawson’s Camp Ak-O-Mak in Ontario and that summer of 1970 entered her first professional race in Lake Ontario, finishing 10th overall out of 60 competitors and setting a new women’s record. In 1974 she became the 1st swimmer to swim Lake Ontario north to south from Toronto to New York as it was against the currents of the Niagara River. In 1975, she swam around Manhattan Island breaking the record set 50 years earlier. In August of 1979 she became the first person to swim from north Bimini to Florida (Juno Beach) unassisted, a distance of 60 miles.Her failed attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida in 1978 drew front page coverage but her 42 hours covering 99.7 miles in 4 to 6 feet choppy-salt-water waves was an accomplishment in itself. Diana became the lead story for newspapers and magazines throughout the world as well as on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News and other major networks. She appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and other T.V. programs.


Perhaps it was Diana’s experiences of being the center of the spotlight that shifted her attention to interviewing others in the center light. Peppy, energetic, intellectual and with a smile as wide as the oceans she swam, Diana is a colorful spokesperson for the aquatic disciplines. She started with ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” (1980-88) and has since covered five Olympic Games and dozens of premiere sporting events around the world. She was the first to interview Olympic swimmers Nancy Hogshead and Carrie Steinseiffer after their first-ever tie for the gold in the 100m freestyle at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. From 1989-1992, Diana hosted her own show on CNBC, “One on One with Diana Nyad” where she interviewed such diverse guests as Ed Bradley, Julia Child and John McEnroe. Throughout her journalistic career, Diana has been lauded as a skilled and engaging interviewer.


Still a passionate athlete herself, Diana is often called upon as a journalist to participate in the adventure she is covering. She has swum with 100-ton whales in Patagonia, kayaked over 40-foot waterfalls in Borneo and bicycled 1, 200 miles from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.


Diana is currently the senior sports correspondent for Fox Sports News, investigating stories such as the use of performance enhancing drugs by athletes. She is also host of the weekly national radio show, “The Savvy Traveler.” And her column on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” is heard by some eight million people each week. Also on public radio, Diana is the business sports columnist for the popular show, “Marketplace.”


Diana has written three books, Other Shores (her experiences in marathon swimming), Diana Nyad’s Basic Training for Women, and The Keyshaw Johnson Story. She writes extensively for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Self-Magazine and has written for Esquire, Quest, Women Sports, Woman, Mademoiselle, New Dawn and more.


Over the past twenty years, Diana has earned a reputation as a riveting speaker. She combines her talent for dramatic storytelling with a natural sense of humor and a charismatic stage presence. She never uses notes. She speaks from her heart and her audiences are left both entertained and inspired.

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