Diana Nyad, a 64-year-old endurance swimmer, conquered the Straits of Florida over the weekend in her fifth arduous attempt at the task – the first person to do so without a shark cage.

Nyad made her first effort to swim from Cuba to Florida in 1978 at the age of 28. Halfway there, the rough waters got the best of her and she wouldn’t make another go of it until 2011. That year she tried twice, but was derailed in achieving her goal by an hours-long asthma attack and debilitating jellyfish stings. Jellyfish and a severe storm curtailed her efforts in 2012. This year, whether Nyad was successful or not, was going to be her last.

At 8:59 a.m. EST on Saturday, Nyad dove into the Havana waters, accompanied by a crew of 35 individuals, including those who would be on the lookout for sharks and collect jellyfish out of her path. Fifty-three hours later at nearly 2 p.m. on Monday – after battling severe exhaustion, vomiting from ingesting salt water and the threat of hypothermia – Nyad swam up to a Key West beach, achieving a decades old goal.

After walking up the beach with fists pumping in victory, Nyad admitted that her story was a great one. "It's all authentic,” she told CNN. “You have a dream 35 years ago — doesn't come to fruition, but you move on with life. But it's somewhere back there. Then you turn 60, and your mom just dies, and you're looking for something. And the dream comes waking out of your imagination.”

"I got three messages," she added to the congregation of reporters who turned out to watch her make history. "One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it's a team.”

– Chelsea Regan

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