U.S. swimmer Nyad abandons fourth Cuba-Florida bid
The 62-year-old hoped to become the first person to make the 103-mile journey without a protective shark cage.
Tue, Aug 21 2012 at 4:04 PM
Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is aided after she was pulled out of the water between Cuba and the Florida Keys early August 21. (Photo: AFP)
U.S. distance swimmer Diana Nyad abandoned her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida on Tuesday after battling lightning storms and swarms of jellyfish for more than two days.
The 62-year-old hit the water on Saturday at the start of the 103-mile swim across the Florida Straits, hoping to be the first person to make the journey without a protective shark cage.
But just after midnight on Tuesday she was pulled from the water during a severe thunderstorm that her crew said made it dangerous for her and the shark divers accompanying her to remain in the water, according to her website.
The decision to abandon the bid came at 7:42 a.m., it said.
"Diana is doing as well as someone who just spent 62 hours doing something monumental and extremely dangerous... would feel," Mark Sollinger, the director of operations for the swim, told CNN.
He said her face was swollen from jellyfish stings and that medics were monitoring her and treating her for exhaustion.
Sollinger estimated that completing the journey would have taken another 20 to 40 hours, after a strong current pulled her off course.
At the time that her swim was cut short by an "extremely difficult" Gulf Stream, Nyad was about 50 miles short of her mark.
The veteran endurance swimmer had aimed to arrive in the Florida Keys on Tuesday after 60 hours in the water, but was delayed by lightning storms and suffered several jellyfish stings that may have hindered her progress.
Nyad had swum steadily at 50 strokes per minute despite painful stings on her lips, forehead, hands and neck, the team said in updates to fans via social media and on her official website, diananyad.com.
To protect her against jellyfish, she wore a specially designed bodysuit at night, when the creatures are most active, and the accompanying boats and kayaks used red lights to repel them.
A 50-member crew on five yachts accompanied her on the attempt. Every 90 minutes or so she would paddle up to an escort boat without touching it and refuel with a mixture of nutrients and electrolytes.
Her website quoted her as saying she wanted to go on after she was pulled out of the water just before 1:00 am.
"When can I get back in? I want full transparency that I was out. But I have plenty left in me and I want to go on," she reportedly said.
Her team did not say whether she would launch another attempt.
"Nyad did not realize her dream but she will write another chapter in her book," her website said.
The blog said Nyad "kept fighting like a heavyweight boxer" through jellyfish stings, pain, exhaustion and stormy weather, but that continuing her quest would have posed "extreme danger to herself" and her support team.
Photos on the website showed a crew member wrapping a towel around Nyad as she stood on the deck of an escort ship, her face puffy and sunburned.
Nyad — who turns 63 on Wednesday — was on her fourth attempt to cross the waters separating the two countries, which have been at odds for over five decades. Her last was in September 2011.
Her first try was in 1978, when she was 28. Shoulder pain, asthma and ocean swells forced Nyad to cut short another attempt in August 2011.
Nyad set an open sea record for both men and women by swimming from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys in 1979 — a journey that is the same distance as the Cuba-Florida swim, but which she has described as far less dangerous.
And she set a record for circling the island of Manhattan at age 50, clocking in at seven hours and 57 minutes.
In July, British-Australian athlete Penny Palfrey, 49, failed to swim unassisted from Cuba to Florida and had to be plucked from the sea after nearly 42 hours in the water when she could no longer cope with a strong current.
The Los Angeles Times reported last year that the swim had been successfully completed in 1997, by distance swimmer Susie Maroney.
Maroney used a shark cage, completing the swim in 23 hours, 47 minutes — an implausibly short amount of time, some experts have said.
Nyad rejected the shark cage, saying it have boosted her speed and made the swim easier.
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition