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. Once on the beach, 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 what has been a life-long dream. 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.
Before she jumped into the water Saturday, Nyad said she was confident, yet scared.
''My adrenaline is pumping very hard. Which means that in one half I'm excited and I feel confident, I did all the training. The body is ready, the mind is ready. On the other hand, I admit I'm scared.''
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 during the marathon swim.
Australian swimmer Susan Maroney, with the protection of a shark cage, completed the swim through the Florida Straits in 1997 when she was 22.