KEY WEST, Fla. – Diana Nyad’s lifelong dream to swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida has finally been accomplished … at age 64.
Many people have considered it a near impossible goal to cross the Straits of Florida because of its turbulent tropical weather, shark-infested waters, stinging jellyfish and strong currents.
But today, the legendary long-distance swimmer succeeded in her fifth try, after chasing her dream for 35 years. Nyad, a lesbian from Los Angeles who has been inducted in the Women’s Sports Hall of Fame, made her first attempt in 1978.
Nyad started her swim on Saturday, Aug. 31 in Havana. About 53 hours later, she landed in Key West. She did not swim with a protective cage, a wetsuit or flippers, according to her website. An Australian long-distance swimmer, Susie Maroney, completed the long journey from Cuba to Florida in 1997 at the age of 22, but she used a cage.
According to her blog, Nyad was doing well despite some problems caused her specially created mask to help prevent jellyfish stings. About two miles off Key West, she addressed her crew as posted on the blog:
"Hi everybody," she said, apologizing first for any lack of clarity in her articulation. "I have some bad abrasions in my mouth from the jellyfish mask, so excuse me if I have trouble talking."
And then she proceeded to have no trouble talking.
Looking around at us as we bobbed on the boats, she said: "I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean. This is a lifelong dream of mine and I'm very very glad to be with you. Some on the team are the most intimate friends of my life and some of you I've just met. But I'll tell you something, you're a special group. You pulled through; you are pros and have a great heart. So let's get going so we can have a whopping party."
"Thank you, all of you, thank you for your generosity."
News of Nyad's approach to Key West drew hundreds of gawkers to the beach and dozens of boats, paddleboaters, jet skiers and other swimmers. WSVN-TV in Miami began showing a live feed, which was picked up by CNN. Onlookers applauded her every stroke as Nyad approach land. People waved American flags and the rainbow flags as Nyad completed her historic swim.
Nyad, her mouth swollen, told onlookers that "we should never, ever give up ... and we are never too old to chase our dreams."
President Barack Obama quickly tweeted a message: "Congratulations to @DianaNyad. Never give up on your dreams."
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to (877) 727-5446, ext. 713.