US swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, makes Cuba-Florida crossing

Diana Nyad: "You are never too old to chase your dreams"

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Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has become the first person to swim from Cuba to the US without a shark cage.

After about 53 hours' non-stop swimming, the 64-year-old American reached Key West, Florida, escorted by boats and her team of 35 people.

Ms Nyad, who left a Havana yacht club early on Saturday, had vowed this would be her last attempt to cross the 110-mile (177km) wide Florida Straits.

Her four other tries - one in 1978, two in 2011 and one in 2012 - failed.

Ms Nyad walked out of the water on to the beach just before 14:00 local time (18:00 GMT) on Monday.

'Lifelong dream'

A couple of hundred well-wishers were waiting to greet her on the beach, cheering and blowing horns.

The breathless athlete told waiting TV crews: "I have three messages: 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 is a team."

Diana Nyad on the beach in Key West, Florida, on 2 September 2013 Spectators surrounded Diana Nyad as she reached the shore of Key West, Florida on Monday after her 110-mile (177km) swim from Cuba.
Diana Nyad walks on to the beach in Key West, Florida, on 2 September 2013 It was the culmination of a 35-year quest to swim the crossing.
Diana Nyad approaches Key West, Florida, on 2 September 2013 She swam for about 53 hours, stopping only to tread water during food and hydration breaks.
Supporters of Diana Nyad watch her complete her swim in Key West, Florida on 2 September 2013 As she came ashore, she told the cheering crowds that they should never, ever give up and that they were never too old to chase their dreams.
Diana Nyad receives medical treatment at Key West, Florida, on 2 September 2013 Ms Nyad was given medical treatment and taken to hospital once ashore. Her doctor said she was suffering from dehydration, swelling and sunburn but was expected to make a quick recovery.
US swimmer Diana Nyad gestures during a press conference held at the Ernest Hemingway Nautical Club in Havana on 30 August 2013 Before her swim, Ms Nyad had said she was more worried about jellyfish than sharks. Last year, she was forced to halt an attempt after being badly stung by box jellyfish.

"I have to say," Ms Nyad added, "I'm a little bit out of it right now."

As well as a bodysuit, gloves and booties, she wore a special silicone mask to protect her face from the jellyfish stings that plagued her last attempt.

She acknowledged beforehand that the kit would slow her down, but believed it would ultimately prove effective.

Ms Nyad's support team had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her, which was designed to keep sharks at bay.

US President Barack Obama congratulated her, tweeting: "Never give up on your dreams."

As she prepared for the home stretch, Ms Nyad stopped swimming briefly to address her support team, according to a blog post on her website.

"I am about to swim my last two miles in the ocean," she said. "This is a lifelong dream of mine and I'm very very glad to be with you."

Medics had concerns about her slurred speech and breathing but they did not intervene, according to her website.

Ms Nyad's team guided her through the best route into Key West to avoid dangerous eddies, currents, shipping lanes, reefs and swarms of jellyfish.

The rules of the swim meant she was not allowed to hold on to the support boat at any time. Her team helped to keep her on course and gave her food and water.

During her last attempt in August 2012, Ms Nyad had to be pulled out of the water after 41 hours when a squall and repeated jellyfish stings made it impossible for her to continue.

She first tried to complete the crossing in 1978 with a shark cage.

A second attempt - without a cage - in 2011 had to be called off because of shoulder pain and an asthma attack.

Later the same year, jellyfish stings stopped Ms Nyad's third bid at the crossing. Her fourth attempt ended in August 2012.

Australian Susie Maroney, who was 22 at the time, successfully swam the Straits in 1997 with a shark cage.

Besides the protection it affords from predators, the structure is said to make the swim itself easier as it creates a drafting effect.

Gliding on ocean currents, the cage enabled Ms Maroney to make the journey in just 25 hours.

In June, Australian endurance swimmer Chloe McCardel tried to make the crossing without a shark cage, but had to give up because of jellyfish stings.

Satellite image of the Straits of Florida

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