On Fifth Try, Diana Nyad Completes Cuba-Florida Swim

At 64, the long-distance swimmer becomes the first person to cross the Florida Straits without the aid of a protective shark cage. She swam for more than two days and traveled more than 100 miles.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

After years of unwavering tenacity, Diana Nyad has completed her quest. At 64 years of age, she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective shark cage. That is more than a hundred miles of water full of sharks, venomous box jellyfish and treacherous currents.

Nyad had attempted to cross the Florida Strait four times before. Last year, she was stung by a jellyfish and was pulled from the water. But this year, wearing a face mask to protect her, she finally swam to shore at Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla. And here's a little bit of what she had to say.

DIANA NYAD: I must say I'm a little more out of it than I thought I'd be. My mouth is just sea - sea - seawater.

SIEGEL: Well, Nancy Klingener, of member station WLRN in Miami, was there at the finish and joins me now. And Nancy, tell us what the scene was like when Diana Nyad came up on the shore.

NANCY KLINGENER, BYLINE: It was a huge celebration. There were thousands of people waiting for her on shore. A big, big cheer went up. People were blowing conch shells. People were waving flags. People were just really, in a party mood to greet her.

SIEGEL: That sound we heard of her speaking, it sounds like someone who had six shots of Novocain within the past hour. She had difficulty speaking.

KLINGENER: She did. Her tongue was swollen from all the saltwater she took in. And one of the members of her support crew told me that that mask actually made it a lot harder for her to breathe as she was swimming because, you know, when she would lift her face up out of the water to breathe, the mask would kind of allow seawater in there. So she took in even more seawater than she normally would on a swim like that.

SIEGEL: Apart from that, so far as you know, is she well? I mean, is she unharmed by this long swim?

KLINGENER: Yeah. They took her to the hospital to check her out, which, I think, makes a lot of sense. But she sounded pretty good for somebody who'd been in the water for 50-plus hours and swam 100-plus miles.

SIEGEL: Well, tell us about how things went on this swim, about the conditions that Diana Nyad encountered.

KLINGENER: This time, her crew said, everything just went right. The weather was pretty good. They did encounter one little squall, but otherwise they had pretty good weather. The seas weren't too bad, and the jellyfish weren't too bad this time either. So they really thought that everything just worked out right this time.

SIEGEL: This has been a - well, it's not a dream, it's been a real-life ambition of hers for decades. What's she going to do now?

(LAUGHTER)

KLINGENER: That's a good question. I don't know. We didn't get a chance to ask her that question. I think she's going to rest and appreciate the accomplishment for a little while, anyway.

SIEGEL: That's reporter Nancy Klingener of member station WLRN talking with us from Key West, Florida. Thank you, Nancy.

KLINGENER: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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