Long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, on her fifth attempt to
cross the treacherous Florida Straits, completed the historic journey Monday
The 64-year old Nyad accomplished her life-long dream when she staggered onto a Key West beach just before 2 p.m., becoming the first person to complete the treacherous swim without the wave-breaking aid of a protective shark cage. Her 110-mile voyage took 52 hours, 54 minutes and 18.6 seconds to complete, according to Nyad's team.
The crowd at Smather's Beach swarmed her in the water, applauding and waving American and rainbow flags. In typical Key West fashion, conch shells sounded. About 2,000 people gathered to witness history being made.
Police had barricaded a section of the beach for her arrival, but Nyad swam off course the last few hundred yards. The crowds hustled down the beach to try and glimpse her as she pulled herself out of the water.
Nyad dragged herself up to her feet when it became too shallow to swim, wobbling up the last few feet to the sand. She looked like a zombie, her sunburned face staring straight ahead. Her lips were swollen and her mouth bruised by face gear she wore to protect her from venomous jellyfish.
With the record official, a friend and crew member hugged her, saying: "You did it."
She stood dazed for a few minutes as journalists, TV crews, supporters, tourists and residents crowded around her. A friend finally helped her take off her blue swim cap. In a video posted online, Nyad addressed the crowd:
"I've got three messages: One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams."
She paused for a moment while the crowd shouted "That's right!" and "Amen, sister!"
Nyad continued: "Three is, it looks like it's a solitary sport, but it's a team."
Then she stared into the distance and gripped onto a woman standing by her side as paramedics worked through the crowd with a stretcher.
Nyad finally was lifted onto the stretcher and was taken to shady area, where paramedics gave her cold water and fluids through an IV. She asked a paramedic what he could do for the pain inside her mouth.
After several more minutes, she was taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center on nearby Stock Island. For the first time, she managed a smile and raised her hand as she waved to the throng of well-wishers shouting: "Way to go Diana," "Amazing" and "Unbelievable."
Across the world, people on social media congratulated Nyad. President Barack Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott took to Twitter to acknowledge her achievement.
"Never give up on your dreams," Obama tweeted.
Nyad left Hemingway Marina in Havana on Saturday to cross the Straits, home to stinging box jellyfish, sharks, sudden storms, eddies and the strong Gulf Stream.
Despite a Sunday-night storm that brought winds of up to 23 knots and bouts with nausea, Nyad made good time in the first half of the swim, with about 51 strokes per minute. A favorable current helped her average about two miles per hour, and by about 5 a.m. Monday she was on course to conquer her dream.
"The greatest variable here is the extension of human endurance," said her navigator, John Bartlett, who is leading her escort boat, the Voyager. "How long will it take her to make those last 100 strokes at the end, and all the ones
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