UPDATE: Diana Nyad was forced to abandon her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to the United States on Tuesday morning: Cuba-to-Fla. Swimmer Nyad Pulled from Water
Diana Nyad is hoping it’ll be fourth time lucky in her latest attempt to become the first person to swim from Cuba to the U.S. – without a shark cage protecting her.
Now into her third day, she hasn’t had the easiest of starts on her 103-mile journey. On her first night, she was stung by jellyfish on her lips, forehead, hands and neck.
According to the Washington Post, at least two of the stings came from the highly dangerous box jellyfish. Nevertheless, her operations director Mark Sollinger told CNN: “She did the Diana Nyad thing and powered through it.”
The 62-year-old veteran distance swimmer managed to avoid being being stung on Sunday night, but instead faced a summer summer storm, which blew her off-course. Undeterred, her official blog post reported on Monday morning: “Seas are calm and Diana is swimming strong.”
Without the protection offered by a cage, she hopes to steer clear of sharks with an electronic shark repellent, which produces an electric field unnoticeable to humans, as well as the assistance of a team of divers.
The journey is expected to take Nyad 60 hours in total. She hopes to reach the finish line in Florida well before her 63rd birthday on Wednesday.
Nyad made her first attempt at the distance swim in 1978, on the back of several swimming marathon victories, but was forced to stop less than halfway through the course, due to rocky seas. Her two further attempts last year were derailed as a result of an asthma attack and box jellyfish stings (which built up toxins in her system), respectively.
The Cuba-to-Florida accolade may have thus far evaded her, but she holds several other titles, most notably being the world-record holder for the longest ocean swim: 102.5 miles from the Bimini, an island in the Bahamas, to Florida.
Despite her age, she told CNN she still feels “vital” and “powerful,” hoping her success could inspire others of her generation. She said: “When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP [American Association of Retired Persons] 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.’ ”
Speaking to the BBC before she took off, Nyad revealed she was “really excited,” but aware of the dangers she was placing herself in. “I respect this. I know how difficult it is – there is a reason no-one’s ever done it. But I’m prepared. I may suffer some, but I’m prepared for that too.”