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The Power of Perseverance with Marathon Swimmer Diana Nyad

Haley Paskalides  |  August 7, 2023

Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad was the first person to swim from Florida to Cuba without the protection of a shark cage. And at 64 years old.

Determination, grit, and perseverance – all adjectives that come to mind when we think of a professional athlete. Year after year, we’re captivated by their skills in the arena. We cheer them on when they win, and feel their pain when they lose. When you think of someone at the “top of their game,” you may conjure images of someone in their 20s or 30s. But  last year, Serena Willams played her emotional last match at the age of 41, and some of us don’t set records until we’re in our 60s. One of those amazing people is Diana Nyad, who, at age 64, became the first person to ever complete the 110-mile swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage. (And she didn’t even start training for the adventure until she was in her 60s.) Not only is Diana an unbelievable athlete, she’s also an incredible example of the power of the human spirit — Diana recently came forward about her years of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her swim coach, and changed thousands of women’s lives by sharing her story. 

Diana’s remarkable journey as an athlete will also be the subject of a new Netflix movie coming out later this year starring Annette Bening as Diana, and Jodie Foster as her long-time collaborator and trainer, Bonnie Stoll. “This movie, yes, it’s about the triumph of the will,” she says, “It’s about chasing a big dream. It’s about resilience and never giving up. But honestly, it’s as much about this deep friendship between two women who just have decided to do something heroic, something dangerous, and something that would inspire the whole world.”

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Diana knew when she started training for the marathon swim at the age of 60 that it would be no easy feat, but it was something that she had always thought she would accomplish — and knew that she could do. More than anything, she wanted to see if she had the same willpower she did as a younger athlete. “Because you’re not gonna do it without a titanium will that just will refuse to go into failure, no matter what disaster comes your way.” 

And disasters did come her way — in the form of deadly box jellyfish, sharks, and fatigue. She attempted her swim several times before finally completing a successful journey on her fifth attempt. 

Diana shares details on her encounters with nature in the open sea, what it’s like to swim for 60 hours straight with only your thoughts, and why although marathon swimming is a solitary sport, your team is the most important part of completing the race. 


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