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Diana Nyad Completes Historic Swim From Cuba To Florida

By: CBS/AP
By: CBS/AP
U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad

Credit: CBS

U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad's completed a historic Havana-Key West swim on her fifth attempt, 35 years after her first try.

The 64-year-old Nyad stepped ashore in Key West on Monday just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday.

As she approached the shore, spectators surrounded her in the water, taking pictures and cheering her on. She swam within a couple dozen feet of the beach and walked on to dry land. She looked dazed and sunburned.

Once on the beach, she was put on a stretcher and received medical treatment, including an IV. Her lips were swollen.

Nyad's journey began Saturday morning when she jumped from the seawall of the Hemingway Marina into the warm waters off Havana. She has been swimming the Florida Strait ever since, stopping from time to time for nourishment.

Around 11 a.m. on Monday, mere miles from Florida, Nyad called her support boats over and said she had "bad abrasions" in her mouth from her jellyfish-protection mask, according to her team.

While treading water, she said: "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. Some on the team are the most intimate friends of my life and some of you I've just met. But I'll tell you something, you're a special group. You pulled through; you are pros and have a great heart. So let's get going so we can have a whopping party."

In an online update posted before dawn Monday, her team said "Diana is on course to swim 112 statute miles. This is 35 more miles than anyone has ever swam."

Her team also claimed that a cruise ship decided to "make way" for her. They posted on Facebook Sunday afternoon that she had "swum farther north than the farthest end point of any of her previous attempts."

On her blog, her medical team reported "Diana's tongue and lips are swollen causing her speech to be slurred. (Her doctors) are concerned about Diana's airways, but have not intervened."

With about 6.5 miles to go, Nyad was contacted by her support team, who were concerned she was cold and in pain. According to her team, she rebuffed offers to replace her swim cap, which fell off during the night, and instead kept swimming.

The 64-year-old has become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. It's her fourth attempt in the last three years. She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978.

Most of Nyad's previous attempts were derailed by run-ins with box jellyfish.

On this attempt, she was wearing a full body suit and custom face mask to protect against the venomous stings, reports CBS News' Elaine Quijano - though her team blogged late Sunday night that she hadn't used the mask to that point.

As of late morning on Monday, Nyad's team had only one reported sighting of box jellyfish, although it appeared to have not had any tentacles.

Nyad has said, "The box jellyfish takes you into an area of what I'd call science fiction. You feel like you've been dipped in hot burning oil. You burst into flames."

Australian Susie Maroney successfully swam the Strait in 1997 with a shark cage, which besides protection from the predators, has a drafting effect that pulls a swimmer along.

In 2012, Australian Penny Palfrey swam 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to abandon the attempt. This June, her countrywoman Chloe McCardel made it 11 hours and 14 miles before jellyfish stings ended her bid.

In 1978, Walter Poenisch, an Ohio baker, claimed to have made the swim using flippers and a snorkel. Critics say there was insufficient independent documentation to verify his claim.

Nyad first came to national attention in 1975 when she swam the 28 miles around the island of Manhattan in just under eight hours. In 1979 she swam the 102 miles from North Bimini, Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Fla., in 27.5 hours.


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