Xtreme Dream: 61 year old Diana Nyad prepares to swim from Florida to Cuba

By Elizabeth Thielke / Posted on 15 August 2011

Very soon, when the weather conditions are right, long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad, 61, will swim 103 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She first attempted it almost 33 years ago, but was blown off course by a strong northeasterly wind.

Nyad, who currently holds the record for the world’s longest ocean swim, is confident she will make it:

This time, armed with better technology and a battered but tough body, she is certain she will make it. “Physically, I am much stronger than I was before, although I was faster in my 20s,” said Ms. Nyad, who looks sturdy enough to defy a linebacker. “I feel strong, powerful, and endurance-wise, I’m fit.”

Dr. Michael J. Joyner, a professor of anesthesiology and exercise research at the Mayo Clinic, agrees that older athletes, particularly superb ones, do well in endurance sports, because experience and training can offset the need for speed.

Why complete this swim at age 61? Nyad states:

There is ego involved, of course. But her swim has helped her turn a corner, she said, adding that she hopes it will empower others her age.

“I hope a couple will say, ‘I want to live life like that at this age,’ ” Ms. Nyad said. “I want the candle to burn bright. We have changed a lot. Our parents’ generation, at 60, they considered that old age. I’m in the middle of middle age.”

The swim is expected to take from 60-70 hours to complete, and she is currently waiting in Florida and ready to go as soon as the optimal weather conditions arrive.

You can follow along with Diana Nyad on Twitter and DianaNyad.com.

Photo courtesy of DianaNyad.com

-Elizabeth Thielke


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