61-Year-Old Attempts World Record Swim From Cuba to Fla.

( [email protected] ) Aug 09, 2011 07:06 AM EDT
Whoever thinks professional sports belong to young, buff athletes clearly hasn’t met Diana Nyad.
U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad begins her attempt to swim to Florida from Havana August 7, 2011. The 61-year-old plunged into the Straits of Florida at dusk on Sunday to begin what she hopes will be a world record 103-mile (168 km) swim from Cuba to Florida. The same swim was completed successfully by Australian Susan Maroney in May 1997. But Nyad's claim to a world record will be that unlike Maroney, she is doing it without a shark cage in the strait's warm, shark-infested waters. Nyad will be protected by a surrounding electrical field and by divers who will watch for sharks and drive them away if they get too close. Reuters / Desmond Boylan

Whoever thinks professional sports belong to young, buff athletes clearly hasn’t met Diana Nyad.

Nyad, a 61-year-old marathon swimmer, is attempting a record-setting swim from Cuba to Florida. Starting in Havana and ending in Key West, Fla., the swim will total 103 miles. This equates to roughly 60 straight hours of swimming. On Monday, Nyad had completed 1/3 of the journey.

She began her journey on August 7 at 7:45 p.m.

Nyad’s obstacles are many. She must survive sharks, fatigue, and any debilitating health problems such as nausea. The athlete is pausing only briefly to eat and is not allowed to touch the support boat that is making the trip alongside her. Any goggle or suit changes must take place in the water. She is relying on an electrical field from equipment towed by kayakers in order to keep away the sharks, according to CNN.

On Monday, Nyad’s team tweeted that she had some physical discomforts, namely shoulder pains, but was making good headway. Forty-five people comprise her team, including her long-time friend Bonnie Stoll who is acting as her swim coach for this adventure.

This is Nyad’s second attempt at the record-setting swim. Her first was in 1978 when she was 28. Forty-one hours and 49 minutes in the swim, she had to give up due to strong currents and bad weather. The next year, she earned the “longest swim in history” title by journeying 102.5 miles from the Bahamas to Florida. She is also the record holder for numerous other international swimming accomplishments, including circling Manhattan Island in just seven hours and 57 minutes.

Until a year ago, Nyad hadn’t swum a stroke in 31 years. Now she is determined to break that record that was just barely out of reach for her more youthful self. Her tweet shows just how determined she is:

"If I go unconscious, that's one thing. But no one is going to make me get out of the water, that will never happen."

Born in New York City, the swimmer has developed a soft spot for Cuba and promised to return to the island for a post-swim party, according to AP.

Around 7:30 on Monday, her team tweeted a quote from Nyad:

“To swim between these two neighbors, Cuba & the United States, who’ve been strangers all these years, is a moving thing for me.”

Nyad is serving as an inspiration to many as she shows that determination, discipline, and hard work are not qualities possessed solely by the youth.

“I’ve decided to be at peace with it no matter what happens. If there’s weather, waves, a squall, I’m not going to think about my arms above the water. I’m going to say to myself don’t worry about what is happening above water, just get your arms under it and push.”

Advice, perhaps, not just for swimmers.

Just push.