— Joe Auer (@SwimmerJoe) September 2, 2013
With rainbow flags and American flags unfurled on the beach, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad arrived in Key West and set a record that she chased for three decades.
Nyad, 64, walked onto Smathers Beach on her own, completing the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida that she had tried to make four times before. She broke the first record early Monday morning for having gone further than anyone else. When the crowd quieted its cheering, she told them, "We should never ever give up."
The swimmer's team reports that she completed the trip in 52 hours, 54 minutes, and 18.6 seconds. She used no protective shark cage. Nyad first tried back in 1978, but enormous waves forced her to quit after 42 hours. When she tried in 2011, Nyad said she "hadn’t swum a stroke for 31 years." In 2012 she made it 41 miles before hypothermia, storms, and jellyfish stings forced her to abandon the effort. Still, she set out for one last try, leaving from Cuba on Saturday morning for the fifth time.
"I've got three messages," Nyad said of her accomplishment in a short speech on the shore, according to video from CNN. "One is, we should never ever give up. Two is, you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team."
As she approached the coastline, Nyad paused and treaded water to talk with the team of people who follow her on the trip and express her thanks.
"I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean," she told them, according to a blog on her website. "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."
Nyad is known for her outrageous swim attempts, including circling Manhattan Island in seven hours and 57 minutes in 1979 and for completing what was then the longest swim in history, 102.5 miles from the Bahamas to Florida. She has since been named to the U.S. National Women’s Sports Hall of Fame and the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
See more photos and video from her swim on the following pages.