June 29th, 2010
04:47 PM ET

Diana Nyad chases a dream

If the name Diana Nyad sounds familiar, it's probably because you've heard of her incredible feats of human performance. Before there was Lance Armstrong, before there was Michael Phelps there was Diana Nyad. (Watch Video)

Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad showing off the headlines from her world record setting swim

When you meet Diana, you can instantly tell there's something different about her.  If you spend 5 minutes with her - better yet, if you watch this 60 year old swim - you'll be able to tell you're in the presence of an amazing athlete.

In the 1970s, she was unstoppable. In addition to winning multiple swimming marathons, she was the first woman ever to encircle the island of Manhattan, and she holds the World's record for longest ocean swim – 102.5 miles from the island of Bimini in the Bahamas to Jupiter, FL. But there was one goal that eluded her.

"About a year ago now, I'm turning 60," she said, "and I thought 'what have I done with my life? What haven't I done with my life?' I started thinking, you know what, Diana? You've got to get real with life's lessons; one of which is you can't go back."

But a chance sighting of her own, 60-year-old face in the rearview mirror – a very ironic coincidence – changed her outlook completely.

"I caught my eyes, and I thought 'wait a second! There's one thing you actually can go back for,' and that's the dream swim which was Cuba to Florida."

And now, 30 years after her last competitive stroke, she will take to the waters of the Gulf Stream once again to attempt the 103-mile swim.

She made her first attempt in 1978.

"I remember, I got down to the shore with my 6 handlers. We're looking out at a raging sea of whitecaps." Diana says her navigator assured her that the seas calmed down almost to the serenity of a skating pond, just a few miles out. Unsure, she took his word for it, and dove in.

"If you're on the Everest team that's on the penultimate climb, and a storm comes in, you don't say 'what the heck, we're going anyway," she said. "In this swim, we just said 'what the heck, we're going anyway."

41 hours and 49 minutes later, Diana's team was pulling her out of the sea – battered, delerious, ravaged by jellyfish, scarred by the salt water; and only 50 miles from where she had started. That left her almost 60 miles from her intended landing spot.

Almost 32 years later to the day, she'll be facing that same mission, but this time, she says she's ready.

"It's daunting, I will admit to you that I'm scared to death," Diana said, in a rare moment of self-doubt, "but in other ways, I'm very confident."  She continues, "I've left no stone unturned in training, I follow that oil spill every single minute, I look at the weather, I look at my team, I look at shark devices, so I'm ready."

Speaking of sharks, Diana is attempting the swim without a physical shark cage, and is relying on an electronic shark repellant device, and a team of divers to keep the dangerous fish away from her.

It seemed as though she had thought of everything.  But why do it?

"I would be lying if I said I'd just been stewing over this for 30 years. I really haven't," she says. "The issue here isn't as much about making that big athletic dream. Really bigger than that is this existential grappling about being 60."

She went on to paint a picture of 60-year-olds "back in the day" as old people - wrinkled, shriveled up and discarded by society.

"Look at 60-year-olds today. They're not old, and I'm not old. I'm older than I was, yes. I'm slower than I was, but I'm still vital and I'm still powerful, and when I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say 'I'm going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I'm going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I'm going to adopt a child. It's not too late, I can still live my dreams.'"

Editor's note: CNN Medical will be reporting on Diana Nyad's 24 hour Key West swim next month and her attempt to swim to Cuba in August.


soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Bajeha

    I wondered why I haven't heard Diana Nyad's excellent sports commentaries on NPR in awhile. Now I know. I wish her the very best of luck on her swim! I also thank her for helping to dispel the commonly held stereotype of 60+ people as wrinkled, shriveled, addled and out of it. That is so last century, peeps!

    June 29, 2010 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Is her dream to become a raisin?!

      August 3, 2010 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
  2. Maggie G

    Diane, you are an inspiration. I began, late in life, to believe in myself. It wasn't until I was in my 40's that I ran my first marathon, qualified for the Boston and won my first age category in a run with a respectable time of 7:15/mile. So, when I read your story I get excited. You are so right when you say 60 is not old. We are only as old as our minds tells us we are. The rest is all about the E, for effort, the A, for taking Action and the big D, if you can dream it you can acheive it. I'll be looking for you next month and I know you'll have success; I just know you will. And I'll cry with you when you are finished. I'll cry tears of joy for your accomplishment! Keep up the good work Diana.

    June 29, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Troy L.

    60 is the new 30.

    June 29, 2010 at 18:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. decredico

    As soon as she wrestles Andy Kaufman again she can try it.

    June 29, 2010 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Frank

    You go girl. You can do it.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bill

    She wouldn't make it to Cuba, not because of her age but because she will be dead from BP's oil.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Goldengirl

    She's desperate for attention after so many years out of the spotlight. Pathetic that this gets any attention. We should only be hearing about this :news" if she just did it and was successful. All this press leading up to it is a waste or our time and attention. If she does it than good for her, but I don't want to hear about it till it's accomplished and newsworthy.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve

      Nobody forced you to waste your time reading it and commenting on it you dumba$$.

      June 29, 2010 at 19:32 | Report abuse |
    • sthflachk

      soooooo, why did you read it AND spend time commenting?


      June 29, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse |
    • Ross

      Goldengirl – "you" are the pathetic one .......or should i say – jealous. Go drink some prune juice!

      June 29, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse |
    • Joyce

      Soooo what you're really saying is you're jealous because she has the 'balls' to try it and you don't? Gotcha!

      June 29, 2010 at 20:12 | Report abuse |
    • muhrvis

      I am betting you haven't left your easy chair, TV, and bag of chips for years.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse |
    • GuestColin

      Pipe down Fidel. You had your glory years.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:20 | Report abuse |
    • tom

      I think you are the one looking for attention. You don't like this story, move on. You are wasting our time with your moronic reply. GO AWAY!!

      June 29, 2010 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
    • Qwerty1234

      GoldenGirl, you are such a hater.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:50 | Report abuse |
    • nativechild

      Perhaps you would rather hear about another celebrity cheater. SO much more interesting!

      June 29, 2010 at 20:55 | Report abuse |
    • garey

      who flushed your commade toilet face...if you dont like it dont fu%^&&*( read it btch

      June 29, 2010 at 21:02 | Report abuse |
    • jon

      Chill Goldengirl, newsworthiness can be in the eye of the beholder. I say its great news! Go Nyad!!

      June 29, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Your name "Goldengirl" is rather ironic. What does it mean to you? That you look down your nose at an extremelyl capable, newsworthy person? She IS newsworthy, extremely inspirational to millions of people, and has been since her exploits fired up imaginations all over the world all those years ago. You need to decide what is golden in your life and hope no one looks down their noses at it! Good luck with that!

      June 29, 2010 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
    • Gene

      Goldengirl is in fact a fifty-five year old Beergut Bubba a trollin'.

      June 30, 2010 at 15:16 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      You're a very sick puppy to have such a cynical and jealous outlook. I feel sorry for you.
      I'm 58 and Diana Nyad has already inspired me with her wonderful courage and spunk.

      July 11, 2010 at 17:42 | Report abuse |
  8. rachele

    She amazes me. I remember reading about her in an old issue of Life magazine and being stunned that a woman would willingly go through such things.I wish her the best of luck and She's asamazing as ever!

    June 29, 2010 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • blondegeisha

      Go Diana! You are an inspiration to us all.Best of luck

      June 29, 2010 at 21:24 | Report abuse |
  9. chele

    Jealous much, Goldengirl?You sound like an angry, bitter old hag.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. ArmyWife

    That was just the inspiration I so badly needed today. Thank you.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ArmyWife

    What is sad is that all these people being so hateful had read this about a 25-year-old man, they would call it inspiring. Jealousy and envy are very ugly things, aren't they?

    June 29, 2010 at 19:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Luke C

    Way to go CNN! You picked a warming caring story which will take place right near the gulf oil disaster!
    Who really runs CNN anyhow?

    June 29, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. guest2010

    She's crazy. She couldn't complete the swim ! 30 what makes her think she can at 60. Does she have a death wish that she's trying to attain???

    June 29, 2010 at 19:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peter

      my point exactly. it's not like the jellyfish have read this story on CNN, fell inspired, and will leave her alone. Or that the water will somehow go easy on her and NOT drown her. There is no way she will succeed in this task without significant 'help'.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:22 | Report abuse |
    • Kili

      Wisdom, my dear and wits that come with age...that's why I can singlehandedly take something out of my car that took 3 men to put it into...not all about brawn, but mental toughness...Go Diana!

      June 29, 2010 at 21:10 | Report abuse |
  14. Cathy

    Geeeee who tinkled in your wheaties??

    June 29, 2010 at 19:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. guest2010

    p.s. to my other comment: It SHOULD say: She couldn't complete the swim AT 30 . . . . .

    June 29, 2010 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gloria

      The key to understanding this one is that when she tried it before, she encountered whitecaps from a storm, and she now knows to wait for favorable conditions. Reading comprehension can be a wonderful thing.

      June 29, 2010 at 19:39 | Report abuse |
    • peter

      oh yeah it must have been the whitecaps fault. sure. ok.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:23 | Report abuse |
    • Qwerty1234

      I'm with Gloria, have you guys ever tried swimming against a storm? It's like swimming in a bathtub, you don't get anywhere.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
    • Al

      I'm with Gloria either. I also had to swim against a storm for my life. And not only you don't go anywhere but you also go backwards...
      Good luck then !

      November 10, 2010 at 08:29 | Report abuse |
  16. me

    WOW. I wish her luck, but Im thinking if she couldnt make it when she was much younger I cant see how she will pull it off now.... but – God bless her. Wish I had that fortitude!

    June 29, 2010 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. bailoutsos

    Woman what are you thinking? You are too old to follow your dream, just as Abby Sunderland is too young to follow her's.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      Oh! Could you please let the rest of us know what the appropriate age is to follow one's dream? Much obliged.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:25 | Report abuse |
    • Qwerty1234

      FYI, the Sunderland girl's boat malfunctioned otherwise she'd still be at it.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:53 | Report abuse |
    • bailoutsos

      Sorry. I guess my sarcasm was a little to subtle. It was a response to those that were hammering Abby's parents about letting her follow her dream.

      June 30, 2010 at 09:18 | Report abuse |
  18. JGMDRO

    Go Diana! At 70, I've been a diehard fan of yours forever; great to see you back – swim girl, swim !

    June 29, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • BD70

      So no one should try anything unless its the window of age between ohhhh 20 and 30? Nice...

      June 29, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  19. Judith Nero

    You go for it!! I have seen you on TV and have so much respect for you and your accomplishments. I am 65 and there was a pause when I turned 60, but only a pause. I love to work out and do spinning classes as well as train and lift weights. Exercise has change my whole life and has given me a confidence I never would have had–and I didn't start until I was 45! It is role models like you that changes the perception of what a 60 year old is–the sky is the limit.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. has

    Let her go znd drown herself. We better not spend one tax dollar pulling this idiot out of the water. By the way, she might want to look into our relationship with Cuba. I don't imagine she'll get a warm welcome if she arrives.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark C

      Wow, you're unbelievably stupid. A lot of Americans visit Cuba. They like us. Probably because they haven't met a lot of low-grade morons like you.

      June 29, 2010 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • Ross

      has........you need to get some 'happy' pills dude. must be a republican!

      June 29, 2010 at 19:41 | Report abuse |
    • fifi

      Pure ignorance. Cubans are well educated & know how to distinguish individual Americans from their government's policies. Having been to Cuba I can tell you how warm & welcoming they are.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  21. scottinphx

    What a f**cking waste of time. She nearly died at 50 what's she out to prove now?
    Good Luck, I hope she's paying for the retrival of her dead body from the oil soaked sea.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. jim

    "she made it only 50 miles"-WTF!!!! She swam 50 frickin miles through crazy seas and just about half way to Florida. That's AMAZING!

    June 29, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. bailoutsos

    Better hurry or the ocean will be filled with oil.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Cindy

    She is amazing, and fearless. She's right, age is more in the head than in the body these days. Why not live your dreams? At what age must a person give them up? I'm pulling for her and can't wait for the swim.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. len

    I agree

    June 29, 2010 at 19:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. McGillicutty

    Being the first WOMAN to do something does not impress me. Being the first PERSON to do something does. This article states shes the first woman to swim around the island of Manhattan, they dont even mention the PERSON who did it first – doesn't HE deserve some recognition. Wow, she was the first woman to do 20 pushups....AMAZING!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark C

      You sound like a man with a remarkably small d1ck.

      June 29, 2010 at 19:41 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Oh, and why don't you worry about it when you do something the slightest bit remarkable. You can start by getting a job and moving out of your mother's basement.

      June 29, 2010 at 19:43 | Report abuse |

      keep it up and we will force you to be the first man to have a period!!!

      June 29, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse |
    • Qwerty1234

      hahahahahahahahaha, best. comebacks. ever.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:54 | Report abuse |

    I like it how a 16 year old is "Stupid" for trying to sail around the world but yet this woman gets praise for trying to accomplish something she failed at 30 years ago? how dumb!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 19:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Periquito Perez

    Cubans do it everyday..trying to escape Castro's paradise....

    June 29, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. David

    She always wanted to be buried at sea...

    June 29, 2010 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sar

      She won't achieve her goals with pessimism – and neither will you!

      June 29, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
  30. patti

    What an inspiration ... you go girl!!

    June 29, 2010 at 19:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Buya

      inspiration? I can do swim this with a 40 lb weight attached to me.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:01 | Report abuse |
  31. sad_comment_reader

    1) For those of you wondering how she could do it now if she couldn't at 30, read the whole article! She started out last time on bad advice into stormy waters

    2) It scares me as a Father of 2 young children at how horrible people in today's society have become. I'm talking about many of you commenting on this article. Why would you ever wish her bad will? Why question CNN about running this story? Surely you don't act this hateful to your fellow man and woman in person, why does Internet anonymity make that ok?

    June 29, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • nodnelg-28

      Thank u why does everyone spend so much time trying to place blame and so little actually fixing problems. ie. oil spill

      June 29, 2010 at 21:38 | Report abuse |
  32. Beaver

    Fish heads, fish heads, funny little fish heads...her favorite movie must be "The Incredible Mr. Limpett."

    June 29, 2010 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. blake reiser

    has anyone tested this woman for alzheimers? I'm afraid she has no idea what shes doing

    June 29, 2010 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • muhrvis

      Then there's people like you who are too cowardly to try anything even slightly ambitious or courageous...

      June 29, 2010 at 20:17 | Report abuse |
  34. TEE


    June 29, 2010 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • peter

      no, if you fail you'll drown in the sea, or be rescued at taxpayer expense. it's the american way.

      June 29, 2010 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
  35. L.A. aka "R"

    You go Diana!!!
    I'm proud to call you my friend, and my inspiration.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Samir

    Sounds like her brain has more value than yours. How can you believe that another person has claim or rights to her organs? She has the right to chase any goal she chooses.

    By the way, save your corneas for donation and get off of the computer.

    June 29, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Buya

    I can easily swim from Cuba to the US, why is this news?

    June 29, 2010 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Qwerty1234

      Ummm, no you can't.

      June 29, 2010 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
  38. Eric R. Dorton

    God bless your soul, mind and body Ms. Nyad. I greatly envy your courage. Have a safe and successful swim.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. tvkitty

    Gee. . .what a dark place to live, in all that fear and loathing. I have such pity for you.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Storyburn

    I think she's nuts but goals are goals. I just hope she's not shark bait

    June 29, 2010 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Maty

    Yeah, how awful to dream and do. You'll never know.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. muhrvis

    You're not a waste of gray matter because you have no brains to squander.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Leanne

    I vividly remember watching her first attempt live on TV when I was 11 years old. My mother and I watched with excitement and I remember my mother standing in front of the television – pleading that Diana give up as she was obviously disoriented and in so much pain from the jellyfish and sea water. But how exciting to see her attempt that swim again!! I think its an awesome story. Best of luck Diana!!!

    June 29, 2010 at 20:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. peter

    yeah, um, i stand by my original comment. what she's doing is suicide. CNN is actually encouraging someone in their quest to do something incredibly irrational, stupid and dangerous by giving press to this publicity stunt. this is not rational behavior. I dont care how dedicated she is or how much training she's had, it will not matter.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brad

      You are absolutely right

      June 29, 2010 at 20:43 | Report abuse |
    • MarkB

      ...and after she successfully does it we'll have a 16 year old trying it.

      June 29, 2010 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
    • Jlapro

      And exactly what are your qualifications to make such a statement that includes the words "irrational, stupid, dangerous?" Just as in her previous attempt, she will have 'handlers' who will be monitoring her swim.

      June 29, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse |
  45. dew

    a rich girl want to sail aroung the world, a woman wants to swim to cuba. wow the biggest news story in years can'y wait to see how it turn out.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. izzi

    Another media grabbing attempt, lets get the spotlight on ME ! Typical liberal (you see she references AARP), she's got some kind of agenda and guess what ? We'll end up paying to rescue her and the Oprah's etc...of the world will be glowing

    What has this world come to !

    June 29, 2010 at 20:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Fred

    You go girl!

    June 29, 2010 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. GaryG

    She will need to change her oil filter before she reaches Florida.

    June 29, 2010 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. tjcoffee

    Golden girl you are so jealous of this woman. You strike me as a varicose vein model. You should use this as inspiration to stop carrying your boyfriend around (also known as an oxygen tank). I know that men are egotistical, but some of you older gentlemen don't have much testosterone left. Viagara can't fix that! Stop hating mema and pappa!

    June 29, 2010 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Brad

    What a bore. Yawn. Let's see. I'll get some publicity. I'll be on CNN . I'll write a book. I'll fail but everyone will like my grit. Geez. Can we find a true newsmaker? Why the fascination with this stuff?

    June 29, 2010 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
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