SAN DIEGO, August 21, 2012 – After 63 hours of swimming, Diana Nyad’s fourth attempt to complete the Cuba to Florida swim was called off early Tuesday morning.
Although Nyad was suffering from exhaustion, she was determined to continue what she calls the “Xtreme Dream.” But Mother Nature made the call as a fierce storm cell came through, and her support team pulled her out of the water for the safety of Nyad and her team. Nyad, who will turn 63 years old on Wednesday, swam farther than in any of her previous attempts to complete the crossing, although the exact distance and the location of the stoppage are expected to be announced later.
At 1:45 a.m. Eastern Time, the support team aboard Voyager reported being caught in a heavy squall covering the entire straits crossing, with Nyad approximately 55 miles off the coast of Key West. The team tried to wait out the storm. Nyad was described as “chilly but holding up well.”
Nyad talked about getting back in, despite the presence of lightning, thunder, and winds buffeting her escort vessel. Writing on DianaNyad.com, Candice Hogan said Nyad told her crew, “When can I get back in… I have plenty left in me and I want to go on.” But the storm continued and after a discussion with her team, she agreed at dawn to return to Key West by boat for everyone’s safety.
Due to the weather including a storm early Monday, Nyad had been pushed off course and delayed. Her crew estimated it would have taken an additional 28 to 40 hours to complete the swim over the estimate, another factor in making the decision to end the attempt.
Nyad swam almost the same number of hours in her first attempt at the crossing in 1978 at age 29, but she swam farther and got closer to Key West this time. Her previous swim 35 years ago didn’t face any jellyfish.
Nyad’s face and lips were swollen, and she was suffering from exhaustion and the effects of hypothermia, but was described as otherwise doing well.
Speculation is already in the air whether Nyad will give the Xtreme Dream a fifth try. Asked before this latest attempt if it would be her last, Nyad said: “This has to be it, it just has to be.” But Nyad said she wouldn’t try again after she gave up her third attempt in September 2011, forced to abandon the 103-mile swim due to repeated jellyfish stings. She says she knew she would have made it if not for the stings. At the time, she said she wouldn’t try again, nevertheless calling the effort including two years of training a “grand, elevating, life-confirming experience.”
But in February 2012, Nyad announced on her blog, “The Xtreme Dream is very much alive! Come summer 2012 I will finally walk up on that Florida shore after swimming all those long miles from Cuba. I’m all ready, my body, shoulders, muscles and my mind are all prepared for the 60 to 70 hours to make it across. My world-class team of experts are ready for the challenge. The only missing piece to this Xtreme Dream is finding protection from the deadly jellyfish out there.”
Nyad’s team developed a protective body suit and treatments for the inevitable stings, and were working on solutions to ward off the inevitable hypothermia that comes from a 98.6 degree organism being immersed in 85-degree water.
Just how far athletes can push the limits of physiology and reality, no one is sure. Nyad’s performance is remarkable at any age, but extraordinary and limit-snapping for a 62-year-old athlete.
What people like Nyad demonstrate is this: aging and physical deterioration is not automatic or inevitable. Consistency seems to be a factor in keeping aerobic athletes like swimmers, distance runners, and even boxers competing well into what we think of as middle age, or certainly way past world-class prime.
Nyad says she feels stronger and more resilient than she did when setting records in her 20s, still “vital and powerful,” and definitely “not old.” Nyad said prior to the start of her fourth attempt she wants people inspired by her efforts to continue to work hard, test their wills, and dream big – at any age.
“When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, ‘I’m going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I’m going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I’m going to adopt a child. It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams,’” she said.
The millions of people around the world lived Diana Nyad’s dream with her the past few days, and they have been inspired by it despite the outcome. It is a certainty children will be adopted, novels will be written, good works will be done around the world and dreams will be realized thanks to Nyad’s example.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She writes on professional cycling and covers the Sweet Science for Communities, along with other news in the sports world. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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