Veteran U.S. swimmer starts Cuba-Florida trek

Sep 23, 2011, 4:24 p.m.
U.S. long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, (C), poses for pictures with her team in Havana September 23, 2011. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

She also said the swim was an attempt to promote better U.S.-Cuba relations after years of bitterness.

The Florida Straits crossing was successfully completed in May 1997 by Australian Susan Maroney, then 22, but she swam in a cage to protect her from sharks.

Nyad will be protected in the warm, shark-infested waters by an anti-shark device that uses a mild electrical current to shield her from the predators.

She has about 30 people on the team accompanying her.

The only thing she will do differently this swim is have medicine ready in case of another asthma attack or more shoulder problems. She also plans also to eat more during her periodic breaks for liquids and nourishment.

Nyad broke records by swimming around Manhattan in 1975 in less than eight hours and by completing a 102.5 mile swim from Bimini in the Bahamas to Florida in 1979.

After she gave up the swim in August, she said she did not expect to try again.

"You don't beat Mother Nature ... I think I'm going to have to go to my grave without swimming from Cuba to Florida," she told CNN at the time.

But on Friday she said that no longer applied.

"Never listen to athletes when they say it's the end," Nyad said.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Eric Walsh)

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