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Nyad 1st to swim to Florida from Cuba without cage

Posted: September 2, 2013 6:00 p.m.
Updated: September 2, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana o...

 

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked ashore Monday, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.

The 64-year-old Nyad swam up to the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after starting her journey from Havana on Saturday. As she approached, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.

"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.

"I have to say, I'm a little bit out of it right now," Nyad said. She gestured toward her swollen lips, and simply said "seawater."

Her team said she had been slurring her words while out in the water. She was placed on a stretcher on the beach and received an IV before she was taken by ambulance to a hospital. But her doctor later declared her essentially healthy and expected her to recover quickly from dehydration, swelling and sunburn.

"I just wanted to get out of the sun," she said after coming ashore on a scorching, sunny day amid calm seas.

It was 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.

President Barack Obama was among a flurry of public officials and celebrities who tweeted congratulations. The president's tweet read: "Never give up on your dreams."

Nyad's previous try was cut short amid boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and jellyfish stings that left her face puffy and swollen.

This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface. The new silicone mask caused bruises inside her mouth, making it difficult for her to speak, she told her team as she neared land.

Doctors traveling with Nyad had been worried about her slurred speech and her breathing, but didn't intervene, according to Nyad's website.

"She was incredible to watch the whole way through," said one of her doctors, Derek Covington, speaking with The Associated Press afterward.

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