Swimmer, 64, defies sharks and jellyfish to reach Key West
Woman who first tried Cuba-Florida swim without a shark-cage at 29 succeeds at fifth attempt
DIANA NYAD has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage - at the ripe old age of 64.
The American endurance swimmer staggered ashore at Key West on Monday evening [GMT] to be greeted by scores of excited onlookers after nearly 53 hours in the water. Once she’d regained her breath, Nyad gave an emotional address on the beach, telling the crowd and assembled media: "I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you're never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team."
It was Nyad's fifth try to complete the 110-mile swim, a challenge she first attempted in 1978 when she was 29. That attempted ended in failure as did three further bids in 2011 and 2012.
It’s not so much the distance that in the past defeated Nyad, more the danger of sharks and in particular the hundreds of jellyfish found in the sea between Cuba and Florida. In June this year Australian Chloe McCardel had attempted to become the first to accomplish the feat, but 11 hours into the swim McCardel was stung by a jellyfish and forced to abandon her attempt because of the "debilitating" effects of the venom.
At the time Nyad offered her sympathy to McCardel, praising "her courageous foray into those dangerous waters," but the American wasn’t deterred from having another crack at swimming immortality. She set off from the Hemingway Marina in Havana on Saturday, wearing a full bodysuit, gloves, boots and a special silicone mask to prevent jellyfish stings to her mouth.
She entered the water without a shark cage and instead her 35-strong support team generated an electrical field around her to keep sharks at bay. In addition, reported CNN, "divers swam ahead of her, collecting jellyfish and moving them out of Nyad's path".
Despite exhaustion, cold and bouts of vomiting caused by the saltwater, Nyad reached Key West shattered but elated. "It's all authentic. It's a great story. You have a dream 35 years ago - doesn't come to fruition, but you move on with life," she told CNN. "But it's somewhere back there. Then you turn 60… you're looking for something. And the dream comes waking out of your imagination." ·