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From Cuba To Florida: A 61-Year-Old Starts The 103-Mile Swim

Diana Nyad delivers a speech at Ernest Hemingway Nautical Club, in Havana.
Adalberto Roque
AFP/Getty Images
Diana Nyad delivers a speech at Ernest Hemingway Nautical Club, in Havana.

Diana Nyad attempted it once before. It was 1978 when she was 28, but 42 hours into what's supposed to be a 60-hour swim, her team pulled the plug. Nyad, a world-class endurance swimmer, had been defeated by nature: the water temperature was a tad cool and the wind produced sizable waves.

A year or so later, Nyad did manage to swim 102.5 miles from Bimini to Florida before she retired at 30. But, as ESPN says in its profile of Nyad, just before her 60th birthday and following the death of her 82-year-old mother, she started to think back to 1978 and said "Would I? Could I?"

It was all set for 2010, but weather didn't cooperate. But yesterday at Havana's Marina Hemingway, the water was still, the winds were calm. It was perfect.

Here's CNN with what Nyad said before diving into the water at 7:45 p.m. ET.:

"I'm almost 62 years old and I'm standing here at the prime of my life," she said as she walked toward the sea. "I think this is the prime. When one reaches this age, you still have a body that's strong but now you have a better mind."

Nyad did a few stretches and played Reveille, the traditional Army wake-up song, on a bugle before she dived in.

And as if the 103-mile swim wasn't enough. Nyad will be doing it without a shark cage. Her crew has some electronic devices to ward them off and two kayakers will follow her close in case any sharks get curious.

But if she reaches the Florida coast, she will set a record for longest open-water swim without a shark cage.

CNN, which will be keeping track of her via GPS, adds:

"When I walk up on those shores of Florida, I want to prove to the AARP crowd that it's not too late to go back and write that book or adopt that child," she said.

On Sunday, she said: "The joke is the 60s are the new 40s, and it's true. ... I want to be there to say we have many, many years of vitality and strength and service left in us."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.