Diana Nyad swam through cheering crowds of swimmers, boaters and paddlers off the coast of Key West this afternoon as she completed her record-setting swim from Cuba on her fifth attempt.
Nyad's arrival on the beach made her the first person to ever swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.
The 64-year-old swimmer arrived at Key West beach at 2 p.m. this afternoon, completing a journey that started for her in 1978, during her first attempt at the 112-mile swim.
"You are never too old to chase your dreams."
Nyad walked up onto Smathers Beach in Key West surrounded by her supporters to chants of "Nyad, Nyad, Nyad," and spoke to the crowd as she posed for pictures.
"I have three messages," said the breathless Nyad."One is we should never ever give up. Two is you are never too old to chase your dreams. And three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team."
Nyad was then seen by EMTs for an evaluation. Her doctors had expressed concern earlier that Nyad's lips and tongue had become swollen from the salt water and her swimming mask, and she told her team she had abrasions on her mouth.
Her team, which included five boats that had escorted her through the rough waters, Tweeted at 2 p.m. that "Our #FearlessNyad has at long last achieved her #XtremeDream and reached #TheOtherShore. An historic moment that proves #DreamsDoComeTrue."
The Tweet was soon followed by one from President Barack Obama, who sent his congratulations to Nyad.
Congratulations to @DianaNyad. Never give up on your dreams.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 2, 2013
Just before reaching the two-mile mark, Nyad paused from her 50-hour swim and circled up the five boats carrying her support team members for a final chat before her approach to Key West, Fla. She told team members that she had abrasions in her mouth from her mask but wanted to say a few words, according to an update her team posted to her website.
"I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean," Nyad said, treading water. "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."
Doctors travelling with Nyad during her swim reported today that the 64-year-old endurance swimmer was suffering from swollen lips and a swollen tongue, causing her speech to be slurred, but they had not yet intervened with the swim.
The 112-mile swim has stymied Nyad on four previous attempts, including three since 2010.
This time, Nyad wore a custom-made mask during her swim that helped protect her face from box jellyfish, a stinging jellyfish that had caused her to stop her last attempt because of burns left on her limbs and face.
Nyad, a Los Angeles native, left from Marina Hemingway in Cuba at 8:59 a.m. on Saturday morning and has swum more than 100 miles already, her team said on her website.
Her team said that Nyad had reached "a distance not ever having been close to achieved by any other human being before."
"Diana is on course to swim 112 statute miles. This is 35 more miles than anyone has ever swam," navigator John Bartlett said early this morning on Nyad's website.
"Our navigator John Bartlett is consulting closely with the other captains to plan the best route into Key West. There are tides, eddys, currents, shipping lanes, reefs and swarms of jellyfish to consider," her website said in a 4 a.m. update.
Joining Nyad on this quest was a 35-member crew that monitored her health and supplied her with food and water during the swim. Nyad was not allowed to touch or be touched by any of the support crews or vessels.
For Nyad, the Cuba-to-Florida swim had been an elusive dream over the last 35 years. Her first attempt was in 1978 at age 28. Nyad tried again in 2010, 2011 and 2012.