KEY WEST, Fla. – Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked ashore Monday, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage.
The 64-year-old Nyad swam up to the beach just before 2 p.m., about 53 hours after starting her journey from Havana on Saturday. As she approached, spectators waded into waist-high water and surrounded her, taking pictures and cheering her on.
I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, youre never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team, she said on the beach.
I have to say, Im a little bit out of it right now, Nyad said. She gestured toward her swollen lips, and simply said seawater.
Her team said she had been slurring her words while out in the water. She was placed on a stretcher on the beach and received an IV before she was taken by ambulance to a hospital. But her doctor later declared her essentially healthy and expected her to recover quickly from dehydration, swelling and sunburn.
I just wanted to get out of the sun, she said after coming ashore on a scorching, sunny day amid calm seas.
It was Nyads fifth attempt and what she had said would be her last try to complete the approximately 110-mile swim.
She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978.
President Barack Obama was among a flurry of public officials and celebrities who tweeted congratulations. The presidents tweet read: Never give up on your dreams.
Nyads previous try was cut short amid boat trouble, storms, unfavorable currents and jellyfish stings that left her face puffy and swollen.
This time, she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface.
She was incredible to watch the whole way through, said one of her doctors, Derek Covington, speaking with the Associated Press afterward.
Nyad jumped from the seawall of the Hemingway Marina into the warm waters off Havana on Saturday morning to begin swimming. She paused occasionally for nourishment but never left the water.
The support team accompanying her had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her, designed to keep sharks at bay. A boat also dragged a line in the water to help keep her on course.
Nyad first garnered national attention in 1975 when she swam the 28 miles around the island of Manhattan in just under eight hours.
Nyad is also an author of three books, a motivational speaker and has been a reporter and commentator for NPR.