American Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage. The 64-year-old completed the 170-kilometer (105-mile) trip in just over 50 hours on her fifth attempt.
Nyad was met by crowds of onlookers and journalists Monday as she approached the shore near Key West, Florida just before 2:00 p.m. (1400 GMT).
She began her journey in Havana on Saturday, swimming 53 hours across the Florida Straights with a team of support boats following her. Overnight she had experienced extreme cold, her team said, and doctors had reported early Monday that her tong and lips were so swollen that her speech had become slurred.
“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.
During the trip Nyad sometimes wore a full body suit, gloves, shoes and a specially designed prosthetic facemask to protect her from jellyfish.
Nyad actually managed to increase her average speed to 1.76 miles per hour (2.83 kilometers per hour) on Sunday after already having swam for 24 hours.
She appeared dazed and sunburned after reaching the shore, and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
She first attempted the Cuba to Florida swim in 1978, when she was 28. She cut short her most recent attempt last year after dealing with boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and repeated jellyfish stings.
Australian Susan Maroney was the first and until Monday only person to successfully swim across the Florida Straights. She completed the trip in a protective shark cage in 1997 at age 22.
dr/ipj (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)