American woman presses ahead in Cuba-Florida swim
Sep 24, 2011, 11:01 a.m.
By Kevin Gray
MIAMI (Reuters) - American long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad stroked in the Florida Straits on Saturday, enduring stinging sea creatures as she pressed ahead in her latest bid to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
Nyad, 62, departed from the Cuban capital of Havana Friday evening in her quest to make the 103-mile (166-km) crossing, a grueling swim expected to last a total of around 60 hours.
By midday Saturday, she was more than a quarter of the way through. Her pace slowed overnight when she suffered a series of stings from jellyfish-like Portuguese man o'war.
"It's been a challenging night and morning," read a message on her Twitter account.
Stings on her arms, the side of her body and face forced her to tread water at one point for more than an hour, another message said. She eventually changed her bathing suit and put on a shirt to cover herself.
Nyad appeared to be gaining strength on Saturday, according to her Twitter account, and had begun to take fewer rest stops.
Under rules for the record swim attempt, Nyad can stop each hour to take liquids and high-energy food but cannot touch a specially equipped boat accompanying her.
It is the second time in two months Nyad has attempted the swim. In August, she swam for 29 hours and about 50 miles before abandoning. She said she suffered from asthma for 11 hours of the swim, which drained her strength.
Even though she retired from swimming years ago, Nyad has said she is trying the swim to help people her age and older realize they still can do many things. She also said the swim is an effort to improve U.S.-Cuba relations.
Nyad, who was raised in south Florida, first attempted the crossing from Cuba in 1978 when, at the age of 28, she as at the peak of her career as a marathon swimmer. Heavy seas forced her to give up before reaching Florida.
She has set several world records, including swimming around New York's Manhattan island in 1975 in less than eight hours and completing a 102.5-mile swim from Bimini to Florida in 1979.
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 is being protected in the warm, shark-infested waters by an anti-shark device that uses a mild electrical current to shield her from the predators.
(Editing by Bill Trott)