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Diana Nyad forced to abandon Cuba-Florida swim

August 8, 2011 | 11:31 pm

End
Los Angeles endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, 61, braved shark-infested waters to try to complete a 103-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla., to prove you’re never too old to go for it.

But early Tuesday, she had to quit after 29 hours in the water battling ocean swells, shoulder pain and asthma, CNN reported, and was vomiting when she was brought aboard a support boat at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday.

“I am not sad,” she told CNN, which was accompanying her. “It was absolutely the right call.”

Photos: Diana Nyad swimming from Cuba to Florida

Nyad started out Sunday with high hopes -– and without a shark cage. Her motto: “60 is the new 40.”
As she prepared to slip into the water at Marina Hemingway in Havana to prove that, Nyad said: “I’m almost 62 years old.... I’m standing here at the prime of my life; I think this is the prime, when one reaches this age. You still have a body that’s strong, but now you have a better mind.”

Nyad had tried this swim before, in 1978, but had to stop after 42 hours in the face of huge waves.

The swim has been successfully done — Susie Maroney accomplished it in 1997. But Maroney swam in a shark cage. She made her crossing in 23 hours, 47 minutes, a quick time that has led some to suspect that the cage helped her in some fashion.

Although Nyad shunned the cage, she did have some protection from the sharks that patrol the warm waters between Florida and Cuba. Her support crew included kayaks with underwater electrical shields that emit a frequency intended to shoo the sharks away. If that failed, divers were ready to intervene.
When Nyad announced her plans for the swim, she received a deluge of warnings.

“I get emails from people saying they are shark experts,” she told The Times. “They say I will be like a dinner bell out there. I’ve started deleting those immediately.”

Nyad had expected the swim to take about 60 hours, far longer than Maroney. She started Sunday night, taking off from Marina Hemingway after snatching a trumpet to play a few jaunty verses of reveille.

She was allowed to take food and water breaks but — according to the rules that govern open-water ocean swimming — she could not touch any of the craft accompanying her without being disqualified.
She had expected to arrive in Key West sometime Wednesday.

Nyad had spent years pursuing her dream. Slashing through the red tape alone was daunting, given the relationship between the United States and Cuba, never mind her training regimen that included daily swims of up to 12 hours.

When she had to get out of the water, she was about halfway to Florida.

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 -- Rene Lynch

Twitter / renelynch

Photo: The sun sets as an assistance boat follows Diana Nyad during her attempt to swim to Florida from Havana. Credit: Desmond Boylan / Reuters

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