I didn’t believe she could do it.
And I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t think Diana Nyad should have even attempted the grueling ocean swim that recently catapulted the 64-year-old into the record books.
After all, Nyad had already tried to swim from Cuba to Florida four times since her first attempt in 1978…all unsuccessfully. And for good reason. Sharks, jellyfish, chronic nausea and exhaustion who could blame her? I remember talking to my TV as I watched Nyad’s fourth attempt come to a disastrous and disappointing end. “Enough already, Diana. Let it go.”
Besides, you’re too old, Diana. Face it. At 64, it’s too late to attempt something so physically taxing. You’ve already accomplished so much as a swimmer, author, motivational speaker and reporter. Rest on your laurels. Leave crossing the Florida straits to the youngsters.
Clearly, I had no idea what a woman with a dream and the iron will of Diana Nyad was capable of. As Nyad emerged victorious from the Atlantic Ocean after completing her historic swim, I was eating crow.
You’d think I’d have been her biggest cheerleader. After all, almost 60 myself, I’m also an open water swimmer. In fact, I had the great experience of being a “buddy swimmer” for my friend, Becky Jackman, as she successfully crossed the English Channel some years ago.
Honestly, it was sometimes difficult to watch as Becky pushed beyond her limits…spending12 hours in the choppy, bone-chilling waters of the Channel fighting exhaustion and the powerful current…literally crawling onto the beach at Calais…completely spent, swollen and delirious. But as Becky moved from delirium to euphoria, there wasn’t a dry eye on the boat. Our friend was glowing with the joy of achieving her lifelong goal.
Emerging from the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, that’s exactly what Nyad experienced – overwhelmed with emotion as she fell into the arms of her coach. All I can say is shame on me and everyone else who didn’t believe in Diana Nyad. Fortunately, she didn’t listen to us. She listened to her heart.
“I think it was her belief in herself that she could do this,” says Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “That’s what makes her different. She worked through the pain. She had such a strong belief in herself and her ability to do this.”
The fifth time was the charm for the determined Nyad. Her open-water swim encompassed roughly 110 miles and 53 hours. Her superhuman feat makes Nyad the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage fulfilling a dream that began 35 years ago.
Diana Nyad’s incredible feat has inspired millions to dream big and go for it. And the remarkable endurance swimmer has some pretty sage advice for anyone with doubts (or doubters!) about on pursuing their dream.
As she walked triumphantly from the water in Key West…deliriously jubilant…Diana Nyad smiled and told a mob of spectators, “We should never give up. You’re never too old to chase your dream.”