A Personal Quest

Portrait of Diana Nyad

Diana Nyad

Courtesy Diana Nyad

Good luck and favorable currents buoyed sixty-four-year-old Diana Nyad 71C this time around, as she became the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage.

Nyad began her fifth attempt at the 110-mile swim on Labor Day weekend, leaving from Havana the morning of Saturday, August 31, and finishing on Monday afternoon, walking ashore in Key West to cheering crowds and media crews.

A long-distance swimmer, motivational speaker, and author, Nyad was dismissed from Emory as a sophomore after attempting to parachute out of her fourth-floor dorm window. Nyad finished college at Lake Forest, where she graduated in 1973.

As a distance swimmer, she has set numerous records. The latest—a personal quest for more than three decades—required close to fifty-three hours in the ocean on her two-day, two-night swim. Previous attempts had been thwarted by an asthma attack, storms, strong countercurrents, and jellyfish stings. On this swim, Nyad wore a special suit to protect her as well as a gel to create a barrier against the venom.

Because of her time, which was faster than even Nyad expected, there have been questions raised about her grabbing or getting onto a boat, but she and her team insist that the swim was “squeaky clean,” and that strong currents worked in her favor this time. Sharks and jellyfish were largely absent on this attempt as well.

Congratulations poured in to her Twitter feed and Facebook wall, including a tweet from President Obama: “Congratulations to Diana Nyad. Never give up on your dreams.”

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