Endurance athlete battles jellyfish in record swim bid

American Diana Nyad endured several jellyfish stings as the 62-year-old endurance athlete sought to become the first person to swim unaided from Cuba to Florida without a wetsuit or a shark cage.

A team member posted on Nyad’s Twitter account that the American was steadily stroking onward yesterday despite jellyfish stings to the lips, feet, and legs.

Her goal: To become the first person to set a record 166km unaided crossing of the Florida Straits.

“There are so many jellyfish,” said one of the tweets, adding, “Diana is swimming backstroke right now leading with the cap-covered part of her head to minimise contact.”

While sharks were among Nyad’s concerns along with potentially treacherous currents and surprise weather changes, jellyfish that tend to surface at night were a primary worry, her team signalled.

Another tweet said there were jellyfish particles everywhere in the water as Nyad swam through the night.

Nyad, who is less than a week shy of her 63rd birthday, jumped into the waters near Havana on Saturday in her latest bid to make the crossing since last summer, when first an asthma attack and then jellyfish stings forced her to abandon separate bids.

Susie Maroney from Australia used a cage when she swam across the Florida Straits in 1997.

Shifting forecasts showed Nyad’s window of calm seas threatening to slam shut a day earlier than expected. That forced the go-time to be moved up nearly 15 hours to Saturday afternoon instead of around dawn yesterday, a time that had been chosen to minimise exposure to jellyfish that tend to surface more at night.


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