2010 – Miami, Florida: Diana Nyad’s fire had gone out. With her 60th birthday on the horizon, she needed a big goal to re-fire her competitive spirit. She quietly decided to attempt the challenging Cuba to Key West swim, which had eluded her three decades before. The Florida Straights were notorious for large sharks, nasty jellyfish and rough Gulf Stream currents.

When Diana Nyad was five years old her father pointed to her name in the dictionary – Diana, a Greek goddess. He said to her, “Someday you will be a famous swimmer like Diana.” By the time Nyad discovered that her Greek namesake was the moon goddess and had nothing to do with swimming, she was obsessed with swimming.

Nyad won three Florida high school state championships in the backstroke. While at Lake Forest College in Illinois, she was introduced to long-distance swimming. In 1970, she set a women’s world record of four hours and 22 minutes while swimming in her very first 10-mile race in Lake Ontario.

In 1975, during her second attempt to swim around New York’s Manhattan Island, Nyad broke a 50-year-old record with a time just under eight hours. By her early 20’s, she was becoming a star in the new sport of open water distance swimming.

In 1978, Nyad set her sights on breaking the open ocean distance record of 58 miles. She decided to swim from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, a distance of 110 miles. Nyad made it 50 miles in 42 hours before quitting due to high waves and severe jellyfish stings. A year later, she smashed the record by swimming 102 miles from the Bahamas to Florida, arriving on to the beach on her 30th birthday. Afterward, Nyad declared that she would never swim again.

After earning a master’s degree in literature from New York University, Nyad worked for Fox Sports and CBS covering Olympic and world swimming championships. She also did international travel documentaries and had a regular program on National Public Radio.

In 2010, when 60 year old Nyad decided to attempt the Cuba to Key West swim, she had to raise money and recruit sponsors for her swim. She needed to cover the cost of boats, and a support team, which included shark experts, oceanographers, medical advisors and nutritionists. Nyad began her training by swimming six hours a day in a lap pool before moving to open ocean and tackling 12 to 16-hour swims every other day. After several 24-hour swims, she was ready.

On August 7, 2011, more than 33 years after her first attempt at the Cuba to Key West swim, Nyad entered the water at Havana. Strong currents and winds pushed her miles off course, and after 29 hours she aborted the swim. A month later, she began the third attempt. This time after 41 hours and 67 miles she stopped because of unfavorable currents. In August 2012, Nyad was at it again, but after two days of swimming, she once again stopped due to thunderstorms and jellyfish stings to her face.

Refusing to give up on her goal, on August 31, 2013, Nyad began the fifth attempt. This time she was protected from jellyfish by a specially designed silicone facemask, a full bodysuit, gloves and booties. At 1:55 p.m. on Monday, September 2, 64-year-old Diana Nyad became the first person to complete the Cuba to Florida swim in 53 hours.

On the fifth attempt the wind and currents were finally favorable for Nyad. Those closest to her joked that Mother Nature finally relented. She realized that Nyad would not be denied her goal and that she would die trying. Diana Nyad is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

“Isn’t life about determining your own finish line? This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore, no matter what it is, and that dream continues.”                                                               Diana Nyad