“Just Keep Swimming” – Diana Nyad’s Historic Swim from Cuba to Florida

A 35-year-long dream was realized this week when Diana Nyad, of the United States, made history after swimming the 103-mile wide Florida Straits without a shark cage. The 64-year-old managed to complete this herculean feat in about 53 hours. This accomplishment was preceded by 5 failed attempts, each time due to ill-fated circumstances.

Nyad’s first attempt to swim the crossing between Cuba and Florida was in 1978 while using a shark cage. Though the cages main purpose is to offer protection from oceanic predators, it is also said to make the swim easier “as it creates a drafting effect.” Unfortunately, she was forced to stop less than halfway through due to exhaustion. In the 1970s she was a decorated marathon swimmer, however, the Straits seemed tougher than anticipated.

Thirty-three years later, in 2011, Nyad made two more attempts to cross the tumultuous waves of the Straits. The first attempt was ruined due to an 11-hour asthma attack, and the second due to severe jellyfish stings.

At any age, let alone 62, three tries would be enough to want to throw in the towel, but Nyad refused. She tried again in 2012, but a lightning storm and more jellyfish stings led to yet another failure.

At age 64, Nyad set out on her 5th and final attempt to cross the Florida Straits.  She and her team of 35 worked to solve the problems that she had encountered in her previous swims. This time, there would be no setbacks.

Nyad wore a special silicone mask as well as a full bodysuit, gloves, and booties, to prevent any jellyfish stings. Though she knew that these additions would slow her down, she knew that they would be helpful rather than hurtful. As she swam, divers went ahead of her to collect jellyfish and clear them out of her path.

Finally, on her 5th and final attempt, Nyad, at age 64, was able to reach her lifelong goal of crossing The Florida Straits. Just before completing the grueling swim, Nyad said to her team, “I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean. This is a lifelong dream of mine and I’m very very glad to be with you.”

When she arrived on shore, 103-miles and 53 hours later, she told awaiting camera crews, “I have three messages: one is we should never ever give up; two is you are never too old to chase your dreams; and three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.”

Diana Nyad is a testament that no matter what, one should never give up on their dreams. With a dream, determination, and maybe even a silicone suit, anything is achievable.

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