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Nyad’s Cuba-Florida Swim Thwarted by Jellyfish

U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, right, gestures before her departure from the Ernest Hemingway Nautical Club in Havana on Aug. 18, 2012. (Photo by Adalberto Roque/AFP/GettyImages)

Diana Nyad had left no corner untucked in preparations for her fourth attempt to swim across the Florida Strait. She assembled a world-class team for the expedition, including a jellyfish expert, shark divers, a navigator and meteorologists, all of whom assisted the 62-year-old long-distance swimmer train for the 103-mile swim.

But Nyad’s attempt ended when her team pulled her from the water 41 hours into the endeavor. Stung repeatedly by jellyfish, trailed by sharks and buffeted by storm-tossed waves, the swim ended near midnight on Tuesday after her team decided that the physical risks had become too great.

She voiced considerable disappointment at having the effort end without realizing her lifelong dream as she talked with NewsHour correspondent Margaret Warner, shortly after arriving in Key West, Fla.

Stung repeatedly by box jellyfish, she admitted that the physical issues created by the jellyfish were simply too great to overcome. “I am not afraid to admit to you that I am afraid of them. It is one thing to be stung and just have the searing pain on your skin, that you can breathe and count your way through and get over it and it is another to have an animal sting you and go into paroxysms and have your heart and lungs slow down.”

Fully alert and articulate, she asked, “When can I get back in? I want full transparency that I was out. But I have plenty left in me and I want to go on.” (Photo by Christi Barli)

The jellyfish have become her main nemesis on each of the recent attempts. According to Nyad, their presence reflects the changing nature of the oceans. Nyad described possible factors for the change as global warming, oil spills and ballast dumping by tankers at sea.

Having ended her latest attempt a day short of her 63d birthday, Nyad nonetheless described the last three years of effort as having been “worthwhile.”

And she encouraged others to live life larger than their dreams, just as she had done with her four attempts from Cuba to Florida. She said, “If you have dreams, rather than being afraid to be bold, go out and chase them.”

Despite failing, she found meaning in the experience. “I was so passionate and all of my senses were so heightened, and the people I met who came on to the team and gave their expertise, and their will, and their courage, it was a magnificient experience. I wouldn’t change anything about it — except for that final walk up on the beach.”

Learn More about Nyad’s Journey:

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