Greek-American swimmer Diana Nyad completes 110-mile Cuba to Florida Swim. Diana broke the world record at 64. As soon as she waded ashore she said to a cheering crowd: “We should never, ever give up … You never are too old to chase your dreams.”
After more than 52 hours of swimming, Diana Nyad, 64, has made history, swimming from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage or the help of flippers.
Nyad, began the swim from Cuba in the morning of August 31, 2013. This was her fifth bid to swim from Havana, Cuba to Florida, a distance of about 110 miles (177 kilometers), accompanied by a 35-person support team, swimming without a shark cage but protected from jellyfish by a silicone mask, a full bodysuit, gloves and booties.
Jellyfish stings have helped thwart her attempts before, so divers were swimming ahead of her, collecting jellyfish and moving them out of Nyad’s path.
Before reaching Florida, she broke Penny Palfrey’s 2012 distance record for the Cuba to Florida swim, putting Nyad closer to Key West than anyone swimming without a shark cage.
At approximately 1:55 pm EDT on September 2, 2013, Nyad emerged onto the beach in Key West, about 53 hours after she began her journey.
Dozens of onlookers — some in kayaks and boats, others wading in the water or standing on shore — cheered her on as she wrapped up the swim.
She set a record for the longest ocean swim without a shark cage or flippers, according to her crew.
Watch Diana Nyad as she arrives in Key West, FL:
Besides being a long-distance swimmer noted for her world-record endurance championships, Diana Nyad is also an American author and journalist. She has authored three books, Other Shores (Random House: September 1978) about her life and distance swimming, Basic Training for Women (Harmony Books: 1981), and in 1999 she wrote a biography of an NFL wide-receiver Boss of Me: The Keyshawn Johnson Story. She has also written for The New York Times, Newsweek magazine, and other publications.
Nyad was born in New York City on August 22, 1949 to stockbroker William Sneed and his wife Lucy Curtis. Her father died when she was three and her mother soon remarried Aristotle Nyad, a Greek land developer, who adopted Diana.
The family then moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she grew up and began swimming seriously in seventh grade. She won three Florida state high school championships in the Backstroke at 100 and 200 yards (91 and 183m).
She dreamed of swimming in the 1968 Summer Olympics, but in 1966 she spent three months in bed with endocarditis, an infection of the heart, and when she began swimming again she had lost her speed.
Later on, she came to the attention of Buck Dawson, director of the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida, who introduced her to marathon swimming. She began training at his Camp Ak-O-Mak in Ontario, Canada and set a women’s world record of 4 hours and 22 minutes in her first race, a 10-mile (16km) swim in Lake Ontario in July 1970 (finishing 10th overall).
Over two days in 1979, Nyad swam from Bimini to Florida, setting a distance record for non-stop swimming without a wetsuit that still stands today. She broke numerous world records, including the 45-year-old mark for circling Manhattan Island (7 hrs, 57 min) in 1975. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2003.
In her 1978 autobiography Nyad described marathon swimming as a battle for survival against a brutal foe — the sea — and the only victory possible is to “touch the other shore.”
Watch Diana’s latest speech at Tedx Berlin where she also talks about how her Greek father inspired her to become a swimmer.