In just this week, college football was blown away by the debut of quarterback Jameis Winston, Roger Federer shocked the world with his Labor Day loss at the US Open, and baseball’s frontrunners jockey for playoff position daily, but possibly the most astounding sports moment in decades happened outside of all these mainstream channels yesterday afternoon.
At approximately 2 PM on Monday, September 2, 2013, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad (64) arrived – via the ocean – on a Key West beach, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage (sharks!). Her fifth attempt at the treacherous, 100-plus mile journey took nearly 53 hours.
When she arrived on the beach, visibly exhausted and sunburned with saltwater-swollen lips, Nyad stopped to address the crowd of supporters, telling them, “I have three messages. One is, we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dream. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it is a team.”
Nyad first attempted the feat in 1978 and jumped into Havana’s waters three more times between 2011 and 2012 before Monday’s success. Nyad’s fourth attempt was thwarted by box jellyfish stings, which led to her wearing a customized mask for various legs of this weekend’s journey.
As a woman, sports producer, sports fan, American and human, I am utterly blown away by Diana Nyad’s perseverance and performance. She embodies so much of what we look for when we follow athletes and the sports in which they participate. Triumph of the body intertwined with triumph of spirit is ultimately what I fell in love with when I became an athlete, and it is still what captivates me both personally and professionally every time I see, hear, or read about someone pushing the boundaries of human minds and bodies.