[UPDATE: Nyad completed her swim this morning, stepping out of the pool at 8:48 a.m. According to the event's website, she raised $105,165.]
New York City's Herald Square is looking a little different lately: A 120-foot, two-lane pool suddenly appeared yesterday, and record-breaking long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad is currently using it for a 48-hour swim to benefit victims of last year's Hurricane Sandy.
Sixty-four-year-old Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage last month, traveling 103 miles nonstop with no flippers and no physical contact with the 35-person, five-boat crew following her.
What makes Nyad so incredible — besides the obvious fact that she achieved a physical feat never before accomplished by another human being — is her perseverance. Her successful swim, which began at 8:59 a.m. on Aug. 31 and ended just before 2 p.m. on Sept. 2, wasn't her first attempt. It was a dream she had for most of her life, and one that she attempted, and failed, to reach in 1978 when she was only 28 years old — and again in 2010, 2011 and 2012. She finally broke the record and made history on her fifth try, after a 30-year retirement and just 11 days after her 64th birthday.
The swim spanned more than 50 hours during the peak of hurricane season in waters home to sharks, venomous jellyfish and some of the strongest ocean currents in the world. She arrived on the beaches of Key West with swollen lips and a swollen tongue, collapsing into the arms of one of her crew members. Before emergency medical technicians took her to a hospital, she managed to spit out a few words: "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 takes a team."
Nyad is once again demonstrating her tenacity and strength today for the Nyad Swim For Relief, as she raises money for people who have needed to harness their own tenacity and strength through the slow recovery from Sandy over the past year. The devastating hurricane destroyed 12,500 homes in New Jersey alone and caused about $70 billion in damage across the East Coast. According to the event's website, more than 25,000 residents are still displaced from their homes in Ocean County, N.J., and in New York, FEMA has again extended its deadline for transitional sheltering assistance.
P&G brands — including Tide, Duracell and Secret — are backing Nyad's New York City swim, underwriting all production costs to maximize the amount of funds that will go to AmeriCares Sandy Relief Fund. Nyad began swimming laps around 8:30 a.m. yesterday and will complete her 48 hours at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. (You can watch live coverage of it tomorrow morning on "Good Morning America.")
Other swimmers are diving in to accompany her, including Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte, Richard Simmons — fully decked out in a bathing suit donning about 300 Swarovski crystals — and a dog named Roscoe that survived Sandy's flooding.
We stopped by Nyad's pool last night to cheer her on. Check it out! (She's the one in the hot-pink cap.)
An enormous screen next to the pool is playing Nyad's upcoming documentary, "The Other Shore," which will be available for purchase on Oct. 31. You can pre-order it now for 20% off ($15.99) or rent it for 48 hours for $7.99 at TheOtherShoreMovie.com. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds will go to nonprofit health and disaster organization AmeriCares.
At press time, Nyad had been swimming for 29 hours and 20 minutes, and had raised $62,084. To donate and watch the live streaming coverage of her New York swim, visit CrowdRise.com/SwimForRelief. Cheer on Nyad through Twitter with the hashtag #SwimForRelief!
Check out the trailer for "The Other Shore" below:
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The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.