Mon, Sep 26, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Distance swimmer Nyad battles on in new Cuba-US bid

AFP, HAVANA

Senior US distance swimmer Diana Nyad’s support team said on Saturday that she was “struggling,” but fighting in her daring third bid to cross the sea from Cuba to Florida.

The 62-year-old, who is seeking to become the first person to make the 160km swim without a shark cage, was weakened by a series of jellyfish stings after starting her journey on Friday night.

“She is struggling right now. Her usual stroke pace, between 52 and 55 strokes per minute, has dropped to 48, but she is able to swim,” said a blog post titled: A Challenging Night.

“At 5:50am, Diana stopped her freestyle stroke and complained that she couldn’t breathe properly, that she wasn’t getting oxygen to her muscles,” the post said.

Later, a white shark was spotted nearby but not too close for comfort, her entourage tweeted.

“Around 1pm — & don’t everybody get excited here — an Oceanic white tipped shark was spotted near Diana in midst of the three-boat flotilla,” it said. “Diana is deeply committed to safety of these extraordinary animals.”

With 25 hours in the water, messages from her team said she was feeling fit and energized for the heroic feat, which Nyad is undertaking with a range of equipment to try to keep her safe from sharks in the shark-infested straits.

Two doctors from the University of Miami administered the veteran swimmer with prednisone, an anti-inflammatory drug, along with oxygen and other medication.

“Diana seems to be gaining strength. Her rest times per hour are less and less,” the blog later said.

Nyad failed on two previous bids, in 1978 and last month, in her quest to swim across the treacherous Florida Straits from Havana to Key West, Florida.

“You’re doing better. I can see it,” Bonnie Stoll, her chief handler, was quoted as saying on Nyad’s blog, which indicated the swimmer was 25km off the Cuban coast.

Shoulder pain, asthma and ocean swells hobbled Nyad’s attempt in August.

She set out anew from Marina Hemingway in Havana on Friday.

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