Diana Nyad chases longtime Cuba-Florida dream swim

Diana Nyad chases longtime Cuba-Florida dream swim

HAVANA - The Associated Press
Diana Nyad chases longtime Cuba-Florida dream swim

US swimmer Diana Nyad starts her swim after jumping into the water off the coast of Havana, Cuba. Nyad has launched another bid to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to Florida.

American Diana Nyad endured several jellyfish stings as the 62-year-old endurance athlete sought to become the first person to swim unaided from Cuba to Florida without a wetsuit or a shark cage.

A team member posted on Nyad’s Twitter account that the American was steadily stroking onward early yesterday despite jellyfish stings to the lips, feet and legs. Her goal: to become the first person to set a record 166-kilometer unaided crossing of the Florida Straits.

“There are so many jellyfish,” said one of the tweets, adding, “Diana is swimming backstroke right now leading with the cap-covered part of her head to minimize contact.”

While sharks were among Nyad’s concerns along with potentially treacherous currents, jellyfish that tend to surface at night were a worry, her team signaled. Another tweet said there were jellyfish particles everywhere in the water as Nyad swam through the night. But the tweet added that “the backstroke is working!”

Nyad, who is less than a week shy of her 63rd birthday, jumped into the warm waters near Havana on Saturday in her latest bid to make the crossing since last summer, when first an asthma attack and then jellyfish stings forced her to abandon separate attempts.

A member of Nyad’s team posted an initial message on her Twitter account late Saturday saying the swimmer had been stung by a Flower Hat jellyfish - not the more dangerous box jellyfish that ended one of her attempts last year. One of her shark divers also was stung. Both were said to be OK.

Custom-made swimsuit

This time Nyad had hoped a custom-made swimsuit would protect her from stings. It covers her head-to-toe with a pantyhose face and holes only for the eyes, nose and mouth. A kayak-borne apparatus shadowing her in the water creates a faint electric field designed to repel most sharks, and a team of handlers was on alert to dive in and gently nudge away any that make it through.

Deeply tanned with freckles and goggle-eyes from long hours training in the sun, Nyad admitted to a minor case of nerves before departing Saturday. But she sounded confident. “I feel really excited,” she said. “There’s a reason no-one’s ever done it, but I’m prepared. ... I may suffer some, but I’m prepared for that, too.”

Nyad’s team expected it would take at least 60 hours to complete the swim to the Keys.
In June, Australian swimmer Penny Palfrey made it 79 miles toward Florida before throwing in the towel in the face of strong currents. A fiercely driven competitor, Nyad acknowledged it was hard to watch Palfrey come close to snatching away her long-held goal. “If she had succeeded I would have congratulated her, because I know how difficult it is, more than anybody. And after all, this is not my ocean,” Nyad said. “But it is my dream. I’m glad that I still have the chance to be first.”


ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Reuters

A French swimmer who lacks legs and arms has successfully swum the frigid waters separating Alaska and Russia with the aid of paddle-like prosthetics, expedition representatives said Saturday.

Philippe Croizon, whose limbs were amputated after a 1994 electrical accident at age 26, completed his swim late Friday from Alaska’s Little Diomede Island to the Russian maritime border near Big Diomede Island. Croizon’s website said the expected direct distance of the swim was to be about four kilometers. Croizon had intended to swim all the way to the shoreline of Big Diomede, but regional Russian authorities denied him permission to enter the territory, expedition representatives said. His swim to Russian waters took about an hour and 15 minutes, Marc Gaviard, coordinator for the expedition, said.