Senior achieves record 110-mile swim
KEY WEST, Fla. — The clocks Diana Nyad uses to time her training swims show that she’s a slower swimmer than she used to be. That’s only natural: At age 64, she acknowledges she is no longer the “thoroughbred stallion” she was “back in the day.”
And yet, the endurance athlete says she felt stronger than ever when she completed her successful effort to become the first person to swim 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
“Now I’m more like a Clydesdale: I’m a little thicker and stronger — literally stronger, I can lift more weights,” Nyad told The Associated Press in a one-on-one interview Tuesday, a day after she finished her 53-hour, record-setting swim.
“I feel like I could walk through a brick wall. … I think I’m truly dead center in the prime of my life at 64.”
Nyad first attempted swimming from Cuba to Florida at age 29 with a shark cage. She didn’t try again until 2011 when she was 61.
She tried twice more in the past two years before beginning her fifth attempt Saturday morning with a leap off the seawall of the Hemingway Marina into the warm waters off Havana. She paused occasionally for nourishment, but never left the water until she reached the white sand beaches of the Keys and waded ashore.
Nyad says her age and maturity should not be discounted when measuring her most recent success.
“It’s not so much the physical,” she said. “To my mind all of us … we mature emotionally … and we get stronger mentally because we have a perspective on what this life is all about,” Nyad said.
“It’s more emotional. I feel calmer, I feel that the world isn’t going to end if I don’t make it. And I’m not so ego-involved: ‘What are people going to think of me?’” I’m really focused on why I want to do it.”
Australian Susie Maroney successfully swam the Straits in 1997 at age 22 with a shark cage, which besides protection from the predators, has a drafting effect that pulls a swimmer along.
In 2012, 49-year-old Australian Penny Palfrey swam 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to stop. This June, Palfrey’s countrywoman Chloe McCardel, 28, made it 11 hours and 14 miles before jellyfish stings ended her bid.
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