63 year-old achieves her dreams, completes historic swim from Cuba to Florida

Nadheer Roberson, Staff Writer

Fans watched as 63 year-old Diana Nyad completed her goal of swimming 110 miles from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida Aug. 31 and arrived at the shores of Key West Sept. 2. Nyad attempted the Cuba-Florida swim because she wanted to show her supporters that they are never too old to achieve their goals.

“One, is that you should never give up,” Nyad told the LA Times. “Two is, you are never too old to chase your dreams.”

Nyad began working toward her goal during the summer of 2010. She moved to Caribbean Island, Saint Maarten where she completed 8-14 hour swim workouts every other week. Nyad then moved to Key West, Florida and embarked on a 24 hour swim.

Nyad first attempted the swim from Cuba to Florida at 28 years old. She tried to swim with a shark cage for 42 hours before she was pulled out of the water by a team of doctors. The high winds slammed against the shark cage pushing her off course toward Texas. Nyad covered 76 miles on her first attempt.

Nyad retired from her swimming career in 1979. She took her last swim setting the world record of swimming distances for both men and women swimming from North Bimini Island, Bahamas to Juno Beach, Florida. Due to the favorable wind and temperatures, Nyad averaged 3.7 miles per hour and completed the swim in 27.5 hours.


“I was so burned out. You couldn’t pay me to take one more stroke,” Nyad said to CNN. “For 30 years, I did not swim a single stroke anywhere at anytime, except in the ocean, paddling on a board.”

  By July of 2010, Nyad was ready to make another attempt at the swim but record high winds and dropping temperatures prevented her from her second try. At 61 years old, Nyad had achieved more than she could imagine. During an interview with CNN, Nyad shared her thoughts about the obstacles that prevented her then.

“It’s a feeling of helplessness, and I’ve been up against a wall against it,” Nyad told CNN. “Now we’ve had to postpone it all the way until next summer.”

By August of 2011, Nyad attempted her swim for the third time. She failed to get all the way to Florida. Nyad was pulled out 29 hours after getting into the water due to high winds and strong currents that pushed her off course. Nyad was also suffering from jellyfish stings, shoulder pains and asthma.

Nyad covered more distance than previous attempts during her fourth try in 2012. She swam 103 miles before she was pulled out of the water. Her goal was once again not completed because of the nine jellyfish stings and two storms that occurred during her fourth swim.

Diana Nyad finally completed the 110 mile swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida Aug. 21. She was accompanied by a 35 person support team and wore a jellyfish proof swimsuit. Before she reached Florida, Nyad broke Penny Palfrey’s 2012 distance record of swimming the closest to Florida without a shark cage. Nyad reached Key West, Florida in 53 hours and arose on shore with the strength to walk out of the water.

Without directly questioning Nyad, skeptics and long distance swimmers asked for the  swimmer’s GPS history, surface current and Nyad’s eating habits to prove that she was not assisted during her journey.

Despite skeptics and the hardships of her record swim distance, Nyad continues to celebrate her personal achievement and realize that her accomplishment continues to provide motivation for people her age and younger.