from here to then?"
For Nyad, the journey began 35 years ago in 1978, when she first tried with a shark cage but came up short. She gave up swimming for decades, but conquering the Florida Straits continued to eat away at her. So in her 60s, she plunged back into the water and trained to regain her old form.
With a good marketing team that helped raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to support such an endeavor, she made her second attempt in 2011. It was hampered by shoulder pain and an asthma attack. Months later, jellyfish stings ended a third attempt.
Last year, she tried for a fourth time. The jellyfish got her again. She was pulled from the water, her face badly swollen.
This time at dusk and night hours when the jellyfish and other stinging creatures are most prevalent, she will wear a jellyfish protection suit. The first night she wore a specially designed prosthetic face make that also covers her lips, but it made it difficult to swim. The second night, she used a protection cream, dubbed "Sting Stopper," that was created by jellyfish expert Angel Yanagihara and the University of Hawaii.
A diver also was in the water with Nyad to scout for jellyfish. If any were seen, the mask would go on, according to her website. The divers are part of a 35-person support crew that includes kayakers, accompanying her in a flotilla of five boats.
Most long-distance swimmers have never even attempted the swim, with or without a shark cage.
It's a quest that Australian Chloe McCardel called the "hardest swim in the world today" before she attempted it earlier this summer. McCardel, 28, made it only 11 hours in her only try before suffering a "debilitating severe jellyfish sting" that forced her to stop.
Australian-based British swimmer Penny Palfrey, a 54-year-old grandmother, made it 78 miles in 2012 before she gave up primarily because of a strong eddy whose currents were pushing her away from the Keys.
In 1997, supported celebrated 22-year-old Australian Susie Maroney, who was hailed as the first person to complete the swim. She used a shark cage.
Walter Poenish, then 84, claimed that he was the rightful owner of that title. He said he made the swim, in 1978, also in a shark cage, and using flippers.
But the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame does not recognize either crossing because they were not completed under traditional English Channel swimming rules that forbid such aids.
At the time, Maroney was accused of cheating, by hanging onto the shark cage that was pulled by a boat. But even if she didn't hang on, it appears that the shark cage created smoother water for her to swim.
Her time was an astounding 24 hours and 30 minutes for more than 100 miles. That swimming pace was much faster than the 2012 Olympic gold medalist averaged for just 6.2 miles.
That's why today's swimmers say the Florida Straits was still an unconquered body of water -- until Monday.
A documentary about Nyad's voyage, called The Other Shore, will premiere Sept. 26 and is available online at www.theothershoremovie.com.
(c)2013 The Miami Herald
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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