Miami, FL, United States (4E) – American long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, completed a historic and world record 110-mile solo swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida on Monday afternoon.
Nyad fulfilled her life-long dream in 52 hours, 54 minutes and 18.6 seconds when she staggered at Smather’s Beach around 2 p.m. to the cheer of 2,000 people watching and waiting for her arrival. She came all the way from Hemingway Marina in Havana, where she started her journey on Saturday braving distance, wind, stinging box jellyfish, sharks, sudden storms, eddies and the strong Gulf Stream.
With a sunburned face, swollen lips and mouth bruised by a face gear she wore for protection against jellyfish, Nyad shouted to the crowd after stepping on the sand.
“I’ve got three messages: One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like it’s a solitary sport, but it’s a team,” she said, according to Miami Herald.
The team Nyad was referring to was a support crew consisting of 35 people who accompanied her in a flotilla of five boats during her swim. Among the crew was her navigator John Bartlett.
Paramedics then put the exhausted Nyad on a stretcher and moved her to a shaded area, where they gave her water and IV fluids before being transferred to the Lower Keys Medical Center on nearby Stock Island.
President Barack Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott congratulated Nyad via Twitter.
Nyad first tried to cross the Florida Straits in 1978 in a shark cage but did not complete the journey. After several decades and in her 60s, she revived her dream, trained to be in shape and raised money for logistics.
The second attempt came in 2011 but shoulder pain and an asthma attack cut the swim short. A third attempt came months later but she gave up due to jellyfish stings. Her fourth attempt was last year but jellyfish stung her again and the pain and a swollen face forced her to stop.
In the last attempt, she and her team prepared well against the jellyfish. She wore a jellyfish protection suit, prosthetic face and protection cream during night swim, when jellyfish and stinging creatures come out.
There were other swimmers who attempted to cross the Florida Straits with some doing it inside a shark cage. Australian Chloe McCardel, 28, attempted the crossing this summer but stopped in only 11 hours due to jellyfish stings.