Openly gay endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, 61, was hoping to arrive in Key West sometime Wednesday after a grueling 60-hour swim from Cuba, completing a journey she started 33 years ago when she first attempted the feat at the age of 28. Instead she arrived Tuesday by boat, only making it about halfway. Ocean swells, shoulder pain and asthma forced her to abandon her goal.
CNN reported Nyad was vomiting when she boarded the boat, but still in good spirits.
"I am not sad. It was absolutely the right call," she told CNN afterwards. Later she posted on Twitter, "It felt like this was my moment. I don't feel like a failure at all. But we needed a little more luck.” And in another tweet she said, “It's hard because I felt like I had it in me."
Nyad first attempted the swim from Cuba to Florida in 1978, but weather foiled her attempt after 42 hours. A year later in 1979 she completed a record 102.5-mile swim from Bimini in the Bahamas to Juno Beach.
That record was named by OutSports.com the 59th most important moment in LGBT sports history.
If Nyad had completed the 103-mile swim she wouldn’t have been first to do so. That record belongs to Australian marathon swimmer Susan Maroney in 1997. However unlike Maroney, Nyad did not use a shark cage. Instead her crew had special equipment that surrounded her with an electric current to keep sharks away. In addition divers were on hand to discourage any sharks that still came too close.
"Earlier in the evening, she was surrounded by dolphins and a beautiful Caribbean sunset. But strong currents blew her 15mph off course," her team posted on her Twitter account.
About 18 hours in to the swim CNN reported she was experiencing shortness of breath and needed an inhaler. Her shoulder was also bothering her, and she needed to ice it and take anti-inflammatory medicine. By hour 28 CNN reported Nyad was in intense pain and had to rest every three to four freestyle strokes, and roll onto her back to breathe.
And then sometime during hour 29 she came to the conclusion that it was over.
Nyad had a team of more than 30 people to support her, including 10 handlers to advise her, ocean kayakers that towed the devices to repel sharks, and divers to distract sharks that were not turned away.
Before the swim she said: “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. A mind at peace with the joy of the world, a mind full of courage that’s not afraid. So I think this is my day. I don’t know you have to talk to me in 24 hours, and then 48 hours and then 60 hours and see how I feel.”
Unfortunately for Nyad she never made it to the 48 or 60-hour mark.