Diana Nyad Ends Third Attempt at Cuba-to-Florida Swim

Medics warned swollen swimmer additional Portuguese Man o' War stings could be fatal

Sunday, Sep 25, 2011  |  Updated 12:12 PM EDT
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Reflections of Cuba

AP

American endurance swimmer Diana Nyad swims in Cuban waters.

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Endurance athlete Diana Nyad ended her swimming ultramarathon from Cuba to Florida on Sunday after medics warned another painful sting from a Portuguese Man o' War could be life threatening, Nyad team members said.

Nyad was very swollen from multiple stings to her face and body, said Vanessa Linsley, who worked on Nyad's team.

"She's pissed. Nobody blames her. There isn't anything that can change this ... there's nothing that has to do with your swimming capabilities. You can't control mother nature," Linsley said.

The 62-year-old swimmer had completed at least 49 miles (79 kilometers) of the 103-mile (166-kilometer) passage of the treacherous Florida Straits. She soldiered through the stings, at one point cutting eye and mouth holes through a swim cap she wore over her face to prevent future stings.

But around 11:30 a.m., medics warned toxins from the stings were building up and another sting could be serious, Linsley said.

Linsley said Nyad was about to get out of the water and was surrounded by her support team.

Nyad was making her second attempt in as many months at the Cuba-Florida crossing, a lifelong dream that she first tried as a 28-year-old back in 1978, when she swam inside a steel shark cage for about 42 hours before ending the attempt.

A cageless attempt this past August fell short 29 hours in when, gasping for breath, Nyad threw in the towel after an 11-hour asthma attack she blamed on a bad reaction to a new medicine.

Earlier, Nyad received oxygen and a steroid shot from her doctors and was treading water while she recovered from the stings.

After that, her team said in a website update that a so-called "staged swim record" would still be valid as long as she was on the boat only for treatment and not to rest — rather than a nonstop record.

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