Upon hearing the report on Saturday that Diana Nyad was attempting the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, this was my first reaction:
She’s 64 years old. This was her fifth attempt. And she was making the swim without a shark cage, which had never been done successfully (two swimmers have completed the journey in the past, but both used shark cages).
And I remember those photos from her fourth attempt last year after she was pulled out of the water after struggling through severe storms and being attacked by jelly fish that left her face so puffy that it appeared she was recovering from plastic surgery.
So it was shocking this afternoon to hear Nyad was still going strong just miles from shore. When she finished her swim a short time later in Key West after spending 53 hours in the water, she was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd.
“Don’t ever, ever give up,” Nyad told the crowd. “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
Why was Nyad successful today where four times in the past she failed? The Chicago Tribune explains:
Nyad’s team said her fifth attempt at the Florida crossing benefited from several key factors, including calm seas, the surprising lack of jellyfish and favorable currents in the powerful Gulf Stream that flows eastwards through the Florida Straits.
“You can’t do the swim unless you have three things – the determination, the weather and the cooperation of the Gulf Stream,” said Ron Bartlett, her navigator.
Bartlett said the crew only encountered one minor squall during the crossing and only one deadly box jellyfish sighting.
The marathon swimmer had said this was her final attempt, this time equipped with a protective silicone mask as well as a body suit to better protect her from box jellyfish that forced her to end one of two attempted crossings last year.
A team of ocean kayakers and divers accompanied Nyad on her journey dragging an electronic device in the water that emitted a current to repel sharks.
It all made for a perfect storm for Nyad, a distance swimmer her entire life, to complete an amazing journey that she first attempted 35 years ago, when she was 28.