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Diana Nyad: Cuba-to-Florida swim was ‘squeaky clean’

Here's an excellent story by Miami Herald sports columnist Linda Robertson about Diana Nyad, the lesbian icon who recently swam from Cuba to Key West:

BY LINDA ROBERTSON, [email protected]

Diana Nyad swam through five-foot ocean swells that washed over her head. She swallowed mouthfuls of saltwater that made her retch. Swollen lips and tongue turned each breath into a scraping suck from the bottom of her soggy lungs. Her arms, windmilling 50 times per minute, felt as heavy as anchors. Her brain, counting to 20,000 in Spanish and back to zero in French, felt like flotsam drifting away. She flinched in flashback horror as she stroked into a jellyfish minefield.

She hallucinated. She laughed. She sang. She bargained. She cried.

Nyad begged to stop, but kept swimming, and completed her 110-mile odyssey from Havana to Key West in 52 hours, 54 minutes and 18.6 seconds.

It was only after she staggered onto Smathers Beach that sharks began circling.

Perhaps because her swim occurred at a time when artificially-enhanced heroes such as Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez keep falling, Nyad’s record feat was distrusted, too. Perhaps because the realization of her impossible dream on her fifth try was so incredible — a 64-year-old woman swimming across seas that had consumed countless souls traversing by boat — there were questions about how she did it. Perhaps because she is a celebrity in an obscure sport, her peers wanted proof.

Nyad and her support crew have quelled doubts and provided evidence in recent days to show that she swam from Cuba to Florida under her own power, without hanging onto or climbing into a boat or receiving flotation assistance from the handlers, divers or kayakers accompanying her.

“We did it squeaky clean,” Nyad said. “It’s all authentic. I took a vision that was deep in my imagination and I never gave up until I finally saw those palm trees on the shore.”

Nyad became the first swimmer to make the journey without the protective and drafting aid of a shark cage. Yet official categorization of her record remains in limbo.

“I’m not waiting for any petty little judgment,” Nyad said from her home in Los Angeles. “To think that the 44 people out there would collude in a fraud is absurd. We’ll keep celebrating.”

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