Finally it has been done - U.S swimmer achieves Cuba-Florida crossing!
They say third time is lucky but for Diana Nyad, a 64-year-old American swimmer who just two days ago accomplished the amazing feat of swimming the Cuba-Florida stretch, it was fifth time around that proved lucky. After her fifth attempt, Ms Nyad became the first ever person in history to cross the long and trying stretch of water that separates the American state of Florida from Cuba's capital city of Havana.
U.S. professional swimmer, Diana Nyad now stands as living proof that you're never too old to achieve your dreams and that picking yourself up after failure and trying again can certainly prove very rewarding.
Just last Monday the 64-year-old endurance swimmer became the first ever person to swim the 110-mile stretch of Caribbean Sea that separates Havana, Cuba's capital city, from the U.S. shores of Florida without the use of a protective shark cage.
Ms Nyad triumphantly arrived into Key West, Florida on 2nd September 2013 at 14:00 local time after 53 gruelling hours of non-stop swimming in the company of her support team of 35 people. Visibly exhausted she emerged from the water amidst the deafening cheering and applauding of hundreds of well-wishers waiting to greet her on the beach.
This was to be, on her own words, the final attempt after four other tries that ended in failure due to several adverse conditions. Her first attempt in 1978 was the only one made using a shark cage and it failed out of sheer exhaustion. In fact it made her give up swimming entirely for a long while. The second attempt in 2011 had to be called off because of an asthma attack and shoulder pain that impaired her swimming while the third attempt later in the same year was stopped by jellyfish stings. Her fourth attempt was made recently just last August 2012 and was abandoned after jellyfish stings.
But nothing was to stop her this time. In order to avoid the jellyfish stings she wore a protective silicone mask on her face, a full bodysuit, gloves and booties. Even though she knew beforehand this kit would slow her down it ultimately proved effective and helped her make her long elusive dream come true.
As she made her way to the shore she breathlessly told TV crews:
"I have three messages: one is we should never ever give up; two is you are never too old to chase your dreams; and three is it looks like a solitary sport but it is a team."
U.S. President Barack Obama was among the first to congratulate via Twitter with the headline: "Never give up on your dreams".
This amazing swimming feat is more than just an extraordinary physical exploit that tested the boundaries of the human body and its endurance to extreme conditions. It's also a metaphor of the ideological barriers between these two neighbouring countries; barriers that are starting to break down, albeit slowly. For the past few years and thanks to an easing of regulations by Obama, Americans have once again been allowed to visit Cuba legally and go on special cultural Cuba holidays after obtaining a special People-to-People travel scheme.
Just last month an American surfer made the same Cuba-Florida crossing on a paddleboard. This swimming success story by a 64-year-old retired athlete is another small step towards getting these nations closer and building bridges.
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