On September 2, swimmer Diana Nyad stumbled onto the shore in Key West, Florida. At age 64, Nyad made history by becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without using a shark cage. It took her nearly 53 hours to complete the 103-mile swim.
“You’re never too old to chase your dream,” Nyad said shortly after finishing the journey. “Never, ever give up.”
A TEAM EFFORT
This was Nyad’s fifth attempt to complete the swim across the Florida Strait, a waterway between America and the Caribbean islands. She first tried in 1978, then made three more attempts in 2011 and 2012. What finally helped her succeed? She had trained for years, lifting weights and sometimes swimming for days at a time. But even more important than that, experts say, was her mind.
“I think it was her belief in herself that she could do this,” Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, told reporters.
But Nyad didn’t do it alone. She had a team of experts who helped her along the way. A box-jellyfish expert kept an eye out for the deadly creatures that had stung her repeatedly during her past attempts. A boat dragged a line in the water to guide her. Other people gave her food and water during her occasional stops (though she never left the ocean) and monitored her health.
Other swimmers had made the trip before, swimming inside shark cages, which protected them as they moved through the dangerous waters of the Florida Strait. But Nyad did not want to use a cage. So to help protect her from sea creatures, Nyad wore a full-body “jellyfish suit” and a protective silicone mask. She had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her to keep sharks away.
Still, Nyad faced many challenges. She struggled against high winds. Her mask bruised her mouth. And she swallowed a lot of seawater, which caused her to vomit constantly.
FULFILLING A DREAM
For Nyad, it was all worth it to accomplish a lifelong dream.
“The journey was thrilling, but the destination has brought tremendous internal satisfaction,” she wrote on her blog. “I am so proud of my team, and . . . I am also very proud of myself.”
Many others are proud of Nyad too. Even President Barack Obama tweeted his congratulations, saying, “Never give up on your dreams.”