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Nyad braves night of jellyfish on Cuba-Florida swim

20 august 2012, 13:30
0
US endurance swimmer Diana Nyad pressed on Sunday in her bid to swim from Cuba to Florida after a night of being swarmed and stung by jellyfish as she paddling through choppy seas, AFP reports.

"Today is more like swimming. I don't know what you would call last night... probably surviving," she said, according to a blog run by her support crew. As of 12:16 am (1616 GMT), she had swum more than 22 miles in 18 hours, it said.

The jellyfish began plaguing Nyad about five hours into her 165-kilometer (103-mile) endeavor, stinging her several times on her face, neck and hands, and forcing her to swim backstroke to keep her face out of the water.

By Sunday morning, however, the crew accompanying her reported that the current was with her and the jellyfish swarms had subsided.

The swimmer, who turns 63 on Wednesday, hit the water on Saturday afternoon after her departure was pushed up a day over fears of poor weather.

Wearing a blue and black bathing suit and a blue swim cap, Nyad briefly thanked her crew, reporters and others on hand for the event.

"Thanks for coming," she said, adding the single word, "courage," before she jumped in for the trek that she projects will take at least 60 hours.

Before setting off, Nyad reflected on her motivation to make the crossing between Cuba and the United States, which have been at odds for most of her life.

"When I was five years old, I used to stand on the beach (in Florida) and I said to my mother: I wonder if anybody could swim over there" to Cuba, she said.

The 50-strong support team working from five yachts includes divers with extensive shark experience as well as jellyfish experts.

The Florida native has refused to use a shark cage, saying it boosts a swimmer's strokes.

At night, the accompanying boats and kayaks use only red lights because marine biologists believe that lights of other colors, particularly white, could attract jellyfish.

Nyad admitted earlier to feeling nervous.

"I think it's healthy. When you have a respect for something, you have some fear," the swimmer told reporters at the Marina Hemingway, the Havana yacht club where she started the swim.

"There is some fear, but there's also courage, and these three days, I need the courage to be stronger than the fear," she said, adding that she had had a sleepless night in anticipation.

Fans can follow her progress online at www.diananyad.com.

The swimmer's first failed bid to cross the Florida Straits was 34 years ago in 1978. Her comeback in August 2011 was hobbled by shoulder pain, asthma and ocean swells.

In September 2011, Nyad was forced to abandon her attempt 40 hours in, after medics warned that she had suffered dangerous jellyfish stings.

Nyad set an open sea record for both men and women by swimming from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys in 1979 -- a journey that is the same distance as the Cuba-Florida swim, but a feat she has described as far less dangerous.

And she set a record for circling the island of Manhattan at age 50, clocking in at seven hours and 57 minutes.

In July, British-Australian athlete Penny Palfrey, 49, failed to swim unassisted from Cuba to Florida and had to be plucked from the sea after nearly 42 hours in the water when she could no longer cope with a strong current.

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