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      Touching the Other Shore  

1 Diana Nyad once explained that she always ignored the pain and discomfort that came with the goals she set for herself. She said it was important to overcome the barriers she encountered as she pursued new challenges. Nyad’s words summed up a lifetime of success as a long-distance swimmer, journalist, author, and speaker.

2 Born in 1949, she took an early interest in swimming as a sport and was a Florida State High School swimming champion. Like many young athletes, she had Olympic dreams. Nyad wanted to be part of the United States swim team at the 1968 Summer Olympics. A serious illness kept her from competing, however, so she went on to finish college instead.

3 The disappointment of not participating in the Olympics did not stop Nyad, though, from going forward with her swimming. Instead, she became interested in marathon swimming. The sport matched Nyad well. A brilliant athlete, she was well-conditioned for spending long periods of time in the water. Most of all, she was mentally fit for the sport. It takes a special person to tolerate the demands of swimming for miles in rough, cold water. Nyad knew she had the skills to compete with others and win. Now, as a long-distance swimmer, she would compete against herself and the obstacles presented by distance, danger, cold, and fatigue.

4 For ten years Nyad devoted herself to becoming one of the world’s best long-distance swimmers. Her first long-distance swim in 1970 was one of her shortest. She swam a ten mile marathon in Lake Ontario, and, even though she did not finish first, Nyad set the women’s record for the course. After this early success, Nyad took on longer and more difficult swims. In 1972 she set another record by swimming 102.5 miles from an island in the Bahamas to the coast of Florida. She travelled the entire distance without using a shark cage for protection. This feat still stands today as the longest swim of its kind.

5 In 1975 Nyad broke a third record when she swam around Manhattan Island in New York. By then, she was well known around the world. People admired her ability to go from one shore to another in long, gruelling swims. Her desire for more challenging events took her to almost every continent. She swam in the Nile River, the Suez Canal, the North Sea, the Bay of Naples, and in the waters above the Great Barrier Reef.

6 Nyad attempted to swim the distance between Florida and Cuba in 1978. The span of water that separates the United States from Cuba is less than one hundred miles wide, but it is rough and hazardous. For almost two days Nyad battled the treacherous water. Finally, for the sake of her own health and safety, she had to give up. Although she did not finish her swim, this is the swim that made her famous. She impressed the world with her courage and intense desire to succeed. For Nyad her strength of purpose was just as important as reaching Cuba. That is how she defined success. It did not matter that her swim came up short. As long as she faced the task with her best effort, she had touched the other shore.

7 When Nyad ended her career as a swimmer, she continued to try new things. Nyad travelled the globe as a reporter for radio and television networks, and she won awards for her work in broadcasting. Nyad has written books, and she often speaks publicly about her remarkable life. As a reporter and an author, Diana Nyad works to inspire others, just as she did when she swam the waters of the world.