Nyad Puts Early End to Cuba-to-Florida Swim
- Submitted by: manso
- Editorial Articles
- 08 / 10 / 2011
By DON VAN NATTA Jr.Published: August 9, 2011. At 12:45 a.m., Ms. Nyad was vomiting as she was pulled from the water onto a support boat, about midway through her estimated 60-hour swim. Winds had blown her at least 15 miles off course.
“It was my decision to stop and nobody else’s,” Ms. Nyad said during a phone interview from a Key West marina. “I’m deeply grieved and disappointed, but I can hold my head up high. We pictured that moment of me crawling up on that Key West shore. We knew it was my year and my time, even at age 61. It was a fairy tale, but the fairy tale didn’t come true.”
Ms. Nyad said the combination of an injured right shoulder and an asthma attack made her journey seem impossible. At midnight, she said, “It was over, I knew it — my body was at its absolute very end. Will power wasn’t a part of it anymore.”
Ms. Nyad, a commentator for the Los Angeles-based public radio station KCRW, said she injured her right shoulder within two hours of slipping into the glasslike water from the Marina Hemingway in Havana on Sunday evening. And at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, she developed asthma. “I’ve never had asthma in the water before, ever,” she said. “And it just sent me into an absolute tailspin,” she said. “We’ll never know what happened.”
Ms. Nyad’s doctor, Michael Broder, said she did not suffer from dehydration but was violently vomiting when she was pulled on to the boat early Tuesday. “Physically, she is exhausted, and mentally she is exhausted,” Dr. Broder said. “Considering what she has been through, she looks pretty good.”
Shortly after 1 a.m., Elaine Lafferty, who was on the support boat, posted on Twitter, “It’s over ... the combination of factors was too much to safely continue.”
Ms. Nyad, who has said “60 is the new 40,” began her “Xtreme Dream” journey on Sunday evening without a shark cage. She had hoped to break her own record of 102.5 miles for a cageless, open-sea swim, set in 1979, when she swam from the Bahamas to Florida.
Before her swim on Sunday, Ms. Nyad declared, “I’m almost 62 years old. I’m standing here at the prime of my life; I think this is the prime, when one reaches this age. You still have a body that’s strong, but now you have a better mind.”
On Tuesday morning, she said that her goal was to show people in their 60s that “life is not over.”
“To live a life with no regrets and no worries about what you are going to do with your time,” she said. “Fill it with passion, be your best self.”
Ms. Nyad had tried the journey once before, in 1978 at the age of 28. Strong currents and rough water had buffeted her against a metal shark cage, forcing her to quit after swimming 41 hours and 49 minutes.
In 1997, an endurance swimmer, Susie Maroney, swimming inside a shark cage, crossed from Havana to Key West in 23 hours, 47 minutes, an unusually fast time that led some to conclude that her cage helped her make it that quickly.
The passage between Cuba and the United States carried great symbolism to Ms. Nyad. “Our countries are so close, you can almost swim across,” she said.
Ms. Nyad said she had no intentions of trying the swim again.
“I wasn’t the best swimmer I could be — the asthma and the shoulder made sure of that,” she said. “I was my most courageous self. I have to take that with me. I think I’m going to live a life when I did not swim from Cuba to Florida. I think I can live with that.”