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Teacher Retirements
June 3, 2024

Just keep swimming

Is it so easy to give up? Perseverance and application helped 64-year-old Diana Nyad achieving her dream and they could do the same for everyone else.

Editor’s Note: The following story is a Journalism1 collaboration

Waves crashed. Sun blazed. Swum thousands of feet above the vast blue ocean floor, Diana Nyad counted every stroke and sung songs repetitively to distract herself from knowing how long and how far her journey will take. Over 100 miles to trek, Nyad didn’t acknowledge the thought of giving up. Her adventure did not end until she was on the shore of her destination; rejoiced in her remarkable accomplishment.

“To be is to do. Never, ever, give up” Diana Nyad, a 64 year-old American swimmer, doesn’t even acknowledge the thought of giving up. Her adventure will not end until she is on the shore of her destination; rejoicing in her remarkable accomplishment.

Success isn’t rewarding if it’s easy. There is a story and a journey to get to where a person is today, behind every successful one.

In 1978, Diana Nyad attempted for the first time to swim from Cuba to Florida at age 29 but she couldn’t arrive at her destination. After her fifth attempt, she was successful. Even the greatest swimmers have been trying since 1950 and had not prospered, until Nyad overcame the treacherous adventure in 2013. When she turned 60 her dream was still alive and she decided to try again. She faced obstacles and hardships such as seasickness and the strength of the water that sometimes went against her. The current threw her momentum off and the salt of the water choked and dehydrated her rapidly. In all of her struggles during her expedition, she believed she was going to make it.

“When I turned 60, it wasn’t so much about the athletic accomplishment, it wasn’t the ego of ‘I want to be the first.’ That’s always there and it’s undeniable. But it was deeper. It was, how much life is there left? Let’s face it, we’re all on a one-way street, aren’t we, and what are we going to do? What are we going to do as we go forward to have no regrets looking back?”

“The phrase usually is reaching for the stars, and in my case, it’s reaching for the horizon. And when you reach for the horizon, as I’ve proven, you may not get there, but what a tremendous build of character and spirit that you lay down. What a foundation you lay down in reaching for those horizons.”

On this planet, 16 million swimmers exist. Merely 116 of those living have swum for more than 24 continuous hours. Twelve out of the 16 million managed to swim for over 48 hours in all the world’s history. NYAD INFOGRAPHIC (1)Nyad being one of those 12 had only a 1.3 percent chance in a thousand attempts to be successful after analyzing the factors of human and natural interferences.  “To put Diana’s swim in the context, there are only 12 people in the history of the world to have actually swum for 48 hours straight. Of these 12 people, Diana Nyad is the only one to have swum for 52 hours in a part of water full of box jellyfish, sharks and where there is the fastest and largest moving body of water in the world” said Steve Munatones, director of the Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.

“Isn’t life about the journey, not about the destination?” Nyad asked. We all have goals in life, but is your life that goal? We were given breath and life to live, not to drone through. “Everyday of our lives is epic”, Nyad said.

During the night, the sea turned pitch black. Lights attract predators in the area therefore Nyad’s team of 30 professionals, specializing in different areas, could do nothing more but listen to the slapping of Nyad’s thunder arms. Nyad’s head turned about 50 times a minute as she tripped out to her playlist. By the time Nyad had heard John Lennon’s song “Imagine” about a thousand times, she had only swam for 9 hours and 45 minutes with about 43 more hours to go to her final destination.

Nyad’s own best friend, trainer and head handler, Bonnie Stolls, didn’t even believe it could be done before they started the fifth trial. “We talked about it, I said ‘I don’t know if i believe its humanly possible’, she said, ‘so what?’ and I said, ‘really?’. She said ‘yes’ and then i said, ‘I’m in’”, said Bonnie Stolls.

“‘I think it was her belief in herself that she could do this,’ says Kathryn Olson, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to advancing the lives of girls and women through sports. Nyad is a former trustee. “She had me convinced she could absolutely do this, no question,” added Olson, who has worked with Nyad on Foundation events. ‘That is what made her different. She worked through the pain. She had such a strong belief in herself and her ability that she was able to convince all those around her as well.’”

“You can chase your dreams at any age; you’re never too old. Sixty-four, that no one at any age, any gender, could ever do, has done it, and there’s no doubt in my mind that I am at the prime of my life today”. Nyad’s future will go one just as any other person’s, relaxing and peaceful. Many people loved her swim and tracking it on their computer but as she says, “So many people come up to me and say, ‘What’s next? When are you going to do the next one?’ Well, they were just there for 53 hours, and I was there for years. And so there won’t be another epic journey in the ocean.” Since Nyad finished the swim, she has been to Obama’s Oval Office and she has signed a contract for a book. She is really proud of what she and her team did and for having achieved his dream even though everyone told her that she couldn’t. Her adventure is over and is open for another brave soul to take. “Find a way!”

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