US endurance swimmer Diana Nyad was just hours away yesterday from realizing her lifetime quest to become the first person to cross from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
At age 64 and on her fifth attempt, Nyad broke Penny Palfrey’s distance record set last year late on Sunday, swimming farther than anyone before on the treacherous course without protection.
The swimmer was making her approach to Key West at 5am after 44 hours in the water.
She was on course to swim 182km — 56.3km more than anyone ever before, her team said.
She will then have to travel 8km more to Smather’s Beach in Key West.
“Local knowledge from teammates tells us it is an ideal landing spot for Diana,” navigator John Bartlett said on Nyad’s Web site.
Her team expected the landing to take place between 10pm and midnight last night.
“During this time, Diana has stopped numerous times to tread water trying to restore herself. We don’t know how strong she is swimming at this point, but we’ll get an update soon,” Bartlett said, stressing that usually seeing the sun rise over the water helps boost Nyad’s morale.
“The greatest variable here is the extension of human endurance; how long will it take her to make those last 100 strokes at the end, and all the ones from here to then,” he added.
In a display of endurance and spirit, Nyad had actually increased her average speed to 2.83kph on Sunday after more than 24 hours in the water.
Her team said Nyad was riding swells of up to 1.5m, but was also getting a push from the current.
Nyad set off from Cuba on Saturday in what she said would be her final bid to swim across the perilous Florida Straits without the protection of a shark cage. A year ago, she called off her fourth bid to cross the stretch after battling storms and swarms of jellyfish.