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Ocean swimmer Diana Nyad, 60, preparing for Cuba-to-Florida swim

July 27, 2010 | 11:00 am

Diana Nyad speaks onstage during the Salute To Women in Sports Awards. Nyad isn't letting her age stop her from attempting to swim 103 miles from Florida to Cuba. Sports columnist Bill Dwyre recently caught up with ocean swimmer Diana Nyad, who has some unfinished business -- 130 miles of it, in fact.

The 60-year-old is preparing for a long-distance swim from Cuba to Florida, hoping to leave Havana in the next few weeks, weather permitting. It is a swim Nyad attempted in 1978 but had to give up after 42 hours of struggling in huge waves.

Many have expressed concern that she will be swimming in shark-filled waters. Unlike her first attempt, Nyad will not have a shark cage nearby, instead relying on a newly developed electronic shark shield that has been tested in Australia.

"They put a bloody leg of a cow on a surfboard and then watched from a helicopter. Within minutes, hundreds of sharks came and just tore the thing apart," Nyad said. "Then they did the same thing with the shark shield device. Nearly 5,000 sharks were in the area, but none touched it."

Nyad, who will be 61 next month, had to wade through deep red tape to attempt the swim. The Los Angeles resident began her requests in January, and late last week received permission from the U.S. and Cuban governments to do this.

"The Cubans don't like the implication of somebody walking out on one of their beaches and swimming away," Nyad said.

Nyad is not only doing this swim for herself -- she wants people in their 60s to realize life isn't over and to feel good about themselves, saying that "60 is the new 40."

"I didn't make it the first time, and I'm sure not going to wait another 30 years."

She has the team and equipment in place, which is no small undertaking and no small expense. Nyad has to pay to house and feed boat captains, kayak paddlers, trainers, medical personnel and more until the weather is perfect.

She is still lacking about $300,000 to get the expedition accomplished, and is gratefully accepting donations to assist in covering on-the-ground expenses.

Going forward, Outposts will attempt to keep readers apprised about Nyad and her Cuba-to-Florida ocean swim attempt.

I find Nyad and others like her inspirational, proof that age shouldn't hold one back from living (a personal inspiration is my aunt, Leila, who also hasn't slowed down and at age 74 performs in and is company dance manager of the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies). All I can say is -- you go, girl!

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Diana Nyad speaks onstage during the Salute To Women in Sports Awards. Credit: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images for the Women's Sports Foundation
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