Sep 2, 2013, 2:17 PM EST
Diana Nyad, 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage Monday, arriving after nearly 53 hours and more than 100 miles in Key West shortly before 2 p.m.
Nyad failed to complete the journey on four other tries, the first in 1978 and the most recent beginning Aug. 18, 2012, and ending about halfway through, derailed by jellyfish stings and a lightning storm.
Live video streams spread across social media, allowing the world to watch as Nyad reached shore surrounded by Labor Day beach goers stretching out camera phones and tablets to capture the moment.
“I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team,” Nyad said on the beach, according to The Associated Press.
“I have to say, I’m a little bit out of it right now,” Nyad said. She gestured toward her swollen lips, and simply said “seawater.”
She swam within a couple dozen feet of the beach and walked on to dry land. She looked dazed and sunburned. … Once on the beach, she was put on a stretcher and received medical treatment, including an IV. Her lips were swollen. … She is being taken by ambulance to a hospital.
“I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean,” Nyad said, according to a blog posted on DianaNyad.com on Monday morning. “This is a lifelong dream of mine and I’m very very glad to be with you. Some on the team are the most intimate friends of my life and some of you I’ve just met. But I’ll tell you something, you’re a special group. You pulled through; you are pros and have a great heart. So let’s get going so we can have a whopping party.”
“Thank you, all of you, thank you for your generosity.”
Here’s what Nyad said before her swim, via AP:
“I admit there’s an ego rush,” she said. “If I — three days from now, four days from now — am still somehow bringing the arms up and I see the shore … I am going to have a feeling that no one yet on this planet has ever had.”
This time she wore a full bodysuit, gloves, booties and a mask at night, when jellyfish rise to the surface. Before the swim, she said the kit would slow her down, but she believed it would be effective.
Here’s how Nyad’s peers — as in the world’s other best swimmers — reacted to the feat:
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