Diana Nyad completed a historic 110-mile swim between Cuba and Florida without the protection of a shark cage Monday, a journey the 64-year-old has tried four times before.
She completed the swim Monday afternoon to applause and the sight of some people wading into the water as she made her approach to Key West, 52 hr. 54 min. 18.6 sec. after setting out from Havana. Fans circled her as she approached the shore — some in boats who’d waited to greet her — and Nyad was hard to spot at times in the gathering of people around her.
“I got three messages,” Nyad told reporters. “One is we should never ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”
With 17 miles still to go, Nyad already broke the world record for longest-distance swim, previously held by Penny Palfrey for her 2012 slog over the same stretch of water.
Nyad swam without the protection of a shark cage or a wet suit, though she did strap on a prosthetic face mask to shield her from jellyfish stings.
Her support team wrote on the swimmer’s website that she still had to contend with “currents, shipping lanes, reefs and swarms of jellyfish.” They also stated that the site, diananyad.com, was at one point getting 18,000 visits per second as she neared the end of her swim.
President Barack Obama congratulated Nyad on Twitter:
Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in on the shark situation:
Flying to 112 countries is a lot until you consider swimming between 2. Feels like I swim with sharks – but you actually did it! Congrats!—
Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 02, 2013