American endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim the treacherous waters between Cuba and the U.S. without the protection of a shark cage.
The 64-year-old Nyad, making her fifth and final attempt at swimming the 177 kilometers between Havana and the southern tip of (the U.S. state of) Florida, walked ashore pumping a fist Monday after completing her 53-hour journey.
She appeared dazed and sunburned, with her lips swollen. She told cheering throngs of well-wishers that the message of her feat is to never give up and that no one is too old to pursue a dream.
"I have three messages: One is, you should never, ever give up. Two is, you never are too old to chase a dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."
Moments later, she was put on a stretcher and received medical treatment, including intravenous fluids.
Hundreds of people gathered along the shoreline to cheer Nyad as she neared completion of her marathon swim. She first attempted the Cuba-to-U.S. swim in 1978 when she was 28. More recent attempts since 2010 were thwarted when she was overcome with exhaustion, attacked by poisonous jellyfish and confronted by thunderstorms.
On this swim, Nyad wore a specially designed prosthetic face mask to ward off the stinging jellyfish attacks, along with a full body suit, gloves and shoes. She averaged more than three kilometers an hour.
Australian swimmer Susan Maroney, with the protection of a shark cage, completed the swim through the Florida Straits in 1997 when she was 22.