Sixty-four-year-old endurance swimmer, writer, journalist, and all-around inspirational person Diana Nyad completed her 110-mile record-setting swim from Cuba to Florida Monday.
After 53 challenging hours at sea, a slightly delirious Nyad stumbled onto the shores of Key West, Florida, becoming the first person to swim the distance without the help of a shark cage.
Beginning in Havana, Nyad ended her journey fatigued and sunburned and welcomed by a crowd of overeager spectators, trainers, and medical personnel. She provided three pieces of advice upon completing her swim: the predictable “never ever give up” and always “chase your dreams,” as well as the less predictable advice that distance swimming is a team effort.
Nyad wasn’t joking. Her intrepid swim required years of preparation in the Caribbean with four failed attempts, as well as a 35-member support team.
Previous attempts at the swim had ended unsuccessfully after Nyad received painful stings from Caribbean jellyfish. To combat them this time, Nyad used a special “jellyfish suit” with a protective mask. Appearing on Today she said:
I took in a lot of salt water, and I now I’ve got huge abrasions, lesions, all in the mouth from the mask rubbing. I decided the resolve was so strong to make this swim, that I had to get through [the jellyfish]. That’s their world, and I had to get through them, so that was one big difference this time.
Despite the defensive suit, Nyad was placed on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital to receive basic medical attention following her swim. Doctors said time would help her heal from dehydration, sunburn, and facial swelling.
President Obama was quick to jump on the bandwagon of good wishes tweeting: “Never give up on your dreams.” (Somewhere, people who swim from Cuba to Florida fleeing Castro's rule are rolling their eyes.)
Nyad says she now plans to raise money for victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing...in a swimming pool. She said to reporters that she is finished with the ocean: “No waves, no jellyfish, no seasickness.”
Two lessons to draw from this whole event: 1) 64-year-old women kick ass and 2) jellyfish are really persistant.
(Image: J Pat Carter/Associated Press)