By Sandra Birungi
A 64-year-old woman swam for 53 hours from Havana, Cuba to Florida without a shark cage making her the first person do such a thing.
A U.S. endurance swimmer, Nyad reached the shores of Florida yesterday, Monday looking sunburned but a winner nevertheless. She set out for her journey on Saturday in Havana and upon arriving on the beach, she said, “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. I have to say, I’m a little bit out of it right now,” Nyad said.
Her lips were swollen to which she simply said “seawater.” She was placed on a stretcher on the beach and received an IV before she was taken by ambulance to a hospital. Her doctor later declared her healthy and expected her to recover quickly from dehydration, swelling and sunburn.
“I just wanted to get out of the sun,” she said. This is Nyad’s fifth attempt and what she had said would be her last try to complete the approximately 110-mile swim. She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978. “It’s historic, marvelous,” said Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, the Hemingway Marina commodore who helped organize the Cuba side of Nyad’s multiple attempts.
“I always thought she could do it given her internal energy, her mental and physical strength, her will of iron,” said Diaz Escrich, whom Nyad has called a longtime friend. “More than the athletic feat, she wants to send a message of peace, love, friendship and happiness … between the people of the United States and Cuba,” he added.
Nyad was congratulated by among other people President Barack Obama who tweeted “Never give up on your dreams.” Ryan Seacrest also wrote “We should never ever give up … you never are too old to chase your dreams.”
Talking about her swim later on, Nyad said “With all that experience I have, especially in this ocean, I never knew I would suffer the way I did,” she told CNN. “For 49 hours the wind just blew like heck, and it was rough.” She wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface during her swim.