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TRIUMPH: Diana Nyad becomes first swimmer to cross Cuba to Florida without shark cage

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 2nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's a new world record - 64-year-old swimmer Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Stepping onshore in Key West just before 2 p.m. on Labor Day, her swim lasted 53 hours after she began in Havana on Saturday.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Sunburned and looking dazed, Nyad walked on to the shore. As she approached the beach, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.

Nyad offered some encouraging words. \"I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you\'re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,\" she said on the beach.

\"I have to say, I\'m a little bit out of it right now,\" Nyad said. Gesturing toward her swollen lips, she simply explained it away as \"seawater.\"

Nyad's team reported that she had been slurring her words while she was out in the water. Taken away on a stretcher, she received an IV before she was taken by ambulance to a hospital. "I just wanted to get out of the sun,\" she said.

It was her fifth try to complete the approximately 110-mile swim. She previously tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978.

\"It\'s historic, marvelous,\" Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, the Hemingway Marina commodore who helped organize the Cuba side of Nyad\'s multiple attempts said. "I always thought she could do it given her internal energy, her mental and physical strength, her will of iron,\" Diaz Escrich said, who Nyad has described as a longtime friend.

\"More than the athletic feat, she wants to send a message of peace, love, friendship and happiness . between the people of the United States and Cuba,\" he said.

Nyad's last attempt was cut short amid boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and jellyfish stings that left her face swollen.

For her victory swim, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, the time when jellyfish rise to the surface. The new silicone mask caused bruises inside her mouth, making it difficult for her to talk.

Doctors traveling with Nyad were worried about her slurred speech and her breathing, but didn\'t intervene.

Nyad\'s journey began Saturday morning when she jumped from the seawall of the Hemingway Marina into the warm waters off Havana. She stopped from time to time for nourishment, but never left the water.

Australian Susie Maroney had successfully swum the Strait in 1997 with a shark cage, which has a drafting effect that pulls a swimmer along.

In 2012, Australian Penny Palfrey swam 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to abandon the attempt. Australian Chloe McCardel made it 11 hours and 14 miles before jellyfish stings ended her bid.

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