She did it! On her fifth and final attempt to complete 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, 64-year-old Diana Nyad finally achieved a lifelong dream by reaching Key West today shorly before 2:00 p.m. ET. With her superhuman effort, she becomes the first person ever to swim the distance without a shark cage.
Swimming without a cage, fins or wetsuit, Nyad’s historic crossing of the Florida Straits can be partly attributed to a full body skinsuit and custom made facemask to ward off the painful jellyfish attacks that halted her previous events. But it was Nyad’s unrelenting will and determination that were the most important factors. Navigator John Barlett also credited a favorable Gulf Stream, allowing Nyad to average an astounding 2.2 miles per hour.
Despite swollen lips, face scorched from the sun and slightly wobbly legs, the jubilant Nyad said to the throng of support staff and admirers “I have three messages,” while slurring her words, “One is we should never give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. And three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team”.
Shortly after Nyad completed her remarkable journey, a message appeared on her Twitter feed:
A tweet from President Barack Obama’s Twitter page followed, Congratulations to @DianaNyad. Never give up on your dreams.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 2, 2013
Noted as a living legend in the GLBT community, Nyad has had a long career filled with endurance swim milestones, including swimming around the entire island of Manhattan and completing the 102-mile swim from North Bimini Island in the Bahamas to June Beach, Florida.
In recalling previous attempts to make the 53-hour trek, Nyad described the searing box jellyfish stings as “you’ve been dipped in hot burning oil. You burst into flames”. With her new protective gear and insatiable desire to overcome adversity, this time she was able to overcome the shark and jellyfish invested waters and finally conquered the Cuba to Florida swim after first making the attempt 35 years ago, at age 28.
The only question now for Diana Nyad is, what's next? It's all but certain she willing to rest on her laurels. In the meantime, she'll enjoy her well deserved rest.