FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Walter Poenisch, who swam from Cuba to the Florida Keys nearly five years ago, said Thursday he has been vindicated by an out-of-court settlement from those who said he cheated during his marathon swim.
'They ate their words,' Poenisch told a news conference called Thursday to report he has won an out-of-court settlement of his slander suit.
Poenisch said he settled for $15,000 and letters of retraction from marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, 33, the International Swimming Hall of Fame and its publicist at the time, Dick Mullins.
Attorneys for Ms. Nyad and the hall confirmed the settlement, but Philip Montante, who represented the Fort Lauderdale facility, said the letter did not constitute an apology.
The letter said 'please let this serve as my retraction of any comments I may have made concerning' his swim.
The retired cookie baker from Grove City, Ohio, has filed a $1.5 million lawsuit charging defamation of character.
Poenisch used a shark's cage, mask and fins to swim 128.8 miles from Havana to Duck Key in just over 34 hours between July 11 and 13, 1978, when he was 65 years old, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Nyad, who failed in a similar attempt a few days later, was quoted at the time as being skeptical about Poenisch's swim.
Other critics said Poenisch should have had independent observers to supervise the swim. They also said Poenisch shouldn't have used a mask and fins, but Poenisch said it couldn't be done any other way.
Mullins was quoted in the suit as calling Poenisch 'a cheat and a fraud,' and claimed Poenisch slept on his escort boat during part of the swim.
Poenisch said the criticism hurt.
'What good is a man if he loses his reputation and dignity? If you're reputation is taken away, what's left?' Poenisch asked Thursday.
Barry Webber, Ms. Nyad's attorney, said she paid $5,000 for the settlement plus the letter. The division of the rest of the settlement was not disclosed.