Who is Diana Nyad? Diana Nyad is open water and former record-holding American swimmer. Thirty-three years after defeat, Diana Nyad is back to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her example helps us face our disappointments. Three decades later, Marathon Swimmer Diana Nyad is attempting the epic swim from Cuba to Florida that once broke her.
At age 20, Nyad’s marathon swimming career began in July 1970, when she set the women’s world record for the 10-mile swim across Lake Ontario, in four hours and 22 minutes. In June 1974, she flew to Italy and entered the 22-mile Bay of Naples race, setting another women’s record of 8 hours, 11 minutes. At age 26, Nyad made national headlines by swimming 28 miles around the island of Manhattan in just under 8 hours.
At age 28 she first attempted to swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West. Diving into the ocean at 2PM on Sunday 13 August from Ortegosa Beach (50 miles west of Havana), she swam inside a 20 X 40 foot steel shark cage for nearly 42 hours, before team doctors removed her during the 7 o’clock hour on the morning of Tuesday 15 August due to strong Westerly winds and 8-foot swells that were slamming her against the cage and pushing her off-course towards Texas. She had covered about 76 miles, but not in a straight line.
So, despite previous failures, none felt as defeating and possibly career-defining as the aborted Cuba swim. Nyad swam from the island of Bimini to the Florida coast a year later in 1979 and set a record on her 30th birthday. And then she retired. But the recuperative nature of life is remarkable if not fickle. Despite thinking she had shelved her Speedo, the idea of Cuba remained parked deep in her consciousness. She always believed life not only can renew opportunities, it can shift perspective.
So, on July 10, 2010, at the age of 60, she began open water training for a 60-hour, 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, and a task she had failed to finish thirty years previously. Her motivation is, “Because I’d like to prove to the other 60-year-olds that it is never too late to start your dreams.”
She plans to stop every 45 minutes for 20-second hydration breaks – water, juice, sports drinks. Every 90 minutes she’ll rest for 2 minutes and nibble on bread or a spoonful of peanut butter.
By day two she’ll begin drinking heated water and hot chocolate to ward off hypothermia, which becomes a threat after so many hours at sea even with water temperatures expected to be 86 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit.
American endurance swimmer Diana Nyad jumped into Cuban waters Sunday evening and set off in a bid to become the first person to swim across the Florida Straits without the aid of a shark cage. Before the swim, Nyad said it has been a lifelong dream and she hopes her feat, if successful, will inspire people to live vigorously during their golden years.
If she walks upon US soil after two and a half days swimming alone at sea, it will be one of the greatest sporting achievements ever. I hope by the time the article gets posted Diana Nyad would have completed her swim. Even if she fails, it will still be a success.