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Published on Sep 2, 2013
KEY WEST, Fla. -- Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked weakly ashore on Key West's Smathers Beach about 1:30 p.m. Monday, becoming the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage.
"Never, ever give up," said the 64-year-old Nyad, her face swollen and salt-encrusted from the 111-mile swim that she had attempted four times previously. "You're never too old to chase your dreams."
She began this weekend's marathon in Havana at 8:59 a.m. Saturday and swam continuously for 52 hours and 54 minutes. Nearly 2,000 people greeted her with loud cheers and applause as she reached the beach and hugged her head handler Bonnie Stoll, then lay down on a stretcher so medics could check her physical condition.
Nyad first attempted the Florida Straits crossing in 1978 when she was 28 years old. More than 30 years later, in 2011, she tried twice but was foiled by shoulder pain, a debilitating in-water asthma attack and multiple severe jellyfish stings.
During a 2012 attempt, she suffered multiple painful and debilitating stings from box jellyfish despite wearing a protective full-body suit each night.
She donned the suit, gloves and a specially crafted silicone face mask each night to protect her from jellyfish during this weekend's swim, and was accompanied by kayakers with electronic shark repelling devices.
While Nyad is the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage. Australian swimmer Susie Maroney accomplished the crossing with a cage in 1997.