Center Stage: Diana Nyad - Record Breaking Swimmer

   By SheSpeaksTeam  Sep 11, 2013


Diana Nyad, world record-breaking long distance swimmer, made headlines once again on September 2, 2013 – finally achieving her long-time dream of being the first person confirmed to swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida without a shark cage. She was 64 years old, and this was her fifth attempt at swimming the 110-mile feat, which she completed at 52 hours and 54 minutes! That's why they call her Xtreme Dream Nyad! 

What compels a woman to keep diving in the same water where in previous attempts she has been thrown off course by ocean storms and treacherous currents, threats of sharks and deadly Box and Portuguese Man-of-War Jellyfish stings?

Simply – an "Xtreme Dream" and goal she couldn’t shake!

Diana’s first attempt at swimming this route was in 1978, at the age of 28 years old. Strong winds and 8-foot wave swells pushed her off-course towards Texas. Although she did not complete the swim, she did cover 76 miles and swam for 42 hours in a shark cage, under treacherous ocean conditions.

When Diana turned 60, her mother died and she found herself waking up from a vivid dream that she couldn’t shake. Exactly 30 years from her first attempt, at the age of 60, Diana came out of retirement and started training to make another attempt at the Cuba to Florida route. She finally realized her dream last September 2, 2013 - 35 years after her first attempt.

As she walked on the beach at the Florida Keys, Diana told reporters, “I got three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two, is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three, is it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

Throughout her lifetime, Diana has a track record of awe-inspiring feats in the water including:
• Setting the women’s record in 1974, for completing the 22-mile Bay of Naples race in 8 hours, 11 minutes
• The fastest swim around Manhattan Island, completing the 28-mile swim in just under 8 hours, which she set at the age of 26
• Setting the Open Water Long Distance World Record by swimming 102 miles in 27 hours and 30 minutes, from North Bimini Island, Bahamas to Juno Beach, Florida without using a shark cage

What drives Diana Nyad?

Diana has been publicly open that her determination in swimming has a lot to do with overcoming the sexual abuse she experienced as a child, by pushing to be special. In a recent interview with Little Pink Book, Diana commented, “I need to be special, more than abused, afraid, humiliated. And I am going to be more than that! As I’ve gotten older, I don’t operate out of that but in my 20s, 30s, 40s and early 50s, I was constantly pushing to be special.” Diana also adds, “I’m a person who is radically individual and irreverent. They told me: ‘A girl can’t be an athlete.’ I have always been defiant. No one is going to stop me. Everyone told me had I played the game better and been straight instead of gay and more mainstream, I would have gotten much farther ahead. You know what? If that’s what it takes, being someone you’re not, that’s just fine by me.”

We wanted to take a moment to salute Diana Nyad’s inspiring achievements in the sport of swimming. As a community of women, we feel it's important to recognize the achievements of women. Diana Nyad's achievement is a celebration for all women athletes, and a testament to the impact of the 1972 Title IX Education Amendment which made it possible for women to participate in athletic education programs and activities. Before Title IX, women made up just 7% of students participating in high school sports. By 2001, that number rose to 41.5%, an increase of more than 800%, bringing the number of female student athletes to over two million.

Congratulations, Diana and to your Xtreme Dream Team! Thank you for inspiring us to dream. 

What achievements by other women have inspired you?

Share your stories with us, comment on this blogpost by  Monday - September 30, 2013 and you can win one of two $50 Visa Gift Cards. 
You must be a resident of the USA in order to qualify. 


Make a Comment

pippilongstocking by pippilongstocking | EAST BEND, NC
Oct 08, 2013

I saw Diana Nayad on an interview program, she's an amazing human being...Other inspirational women that come to mind: Corrie Ten Boom, Helen Keller, Bethany Hamilton-(SurfGirl), as well as the women I know in my own personal circle. Let's not forget the dedicated, hardworking sIngle moms everywhere, these women too are unsung inspirational figures, the ones I know are as forces of nature...

neutkidz by neutkidz | LEWISTON, NY
Sep 30, 2013

A friend of mine has a special needs daughter.. Life has not been easy, she does not get many breaks nor take much time for herself but she is a continual inspiration to everyone around her...she never gives up and always remains,to look on positive side of life!

khrystal420 by khrystal420 | VERSAILLES, MO
Sep 29, 2013

Rosa parks is my inspiration when it comes to women, she never gave up. She believed in herself and her rights as a African American women and a women in general. She has shown me to never give up my rights and to stand my ground because I deserve it.she is a brave women and showed true strength and courage. e

lisanicole415 by lisanicole415 | Grandville, MI
Sep 28, 2013

I'm inspired by Bettheny Frankel - she built an empire after being in debt and overcame a lot!

mellanhead by mellanhead | depew, NY
Sep 27, 2013

Amelia Earhart.. She was strong and smart

winchamp by winchamp | SPRING, TX
Sep 27, 2013

My mother finishing college later in her life was an inspiration for me that anything can be completed if you put your mind into it.

judifer by judifer | LANSDOWNE, PA
Sep 27, 2013

Bethany Hamilton inspires me. Her passion for surfing didn't waver when she lost her arm because of a shark attack. Through such a tragic event, and with her unwavering faith, she shows us that we can pursue the things we love...and inspire others to do the same.

wolfiegirl by wolfiegirl | los angeles, CA
Sep 27, 2013

Women who stand up for what they believe in: Rosa Parks

pammy0011 by pammy0011 | BRONX, NY
Sep 27, 2013

The women that inspire me the most are the women in my everyday life. My aunts are strong,confident women and they have always been an inspiration to me. My mother is a strong stubborn women that of course is not perfect but has the most amazing,giving heart. My daughter Haley is amazing and I am proud of the person she has become.She stands up to kids who would bully other smaller children and never tries to be anyone other then herself. I guess who i am today is thanks to all the women in my family.I am not perfect but i am strong,confident,giving,caring,express myself and just be myself. These women are my heroes and they are amazing. Congrats to Diana,that's an amazing,inspiring victory. Thank you She speaks for this opportunity.

rkosully by rkosully | DOTHAN, AL
Sep 27, 2013

Hillary Clinton inspires me with her intelligence and political accomplishments. I still would love to see a woman become president in my lifetime, and she is my best hope right now!

Byrdy1999 by Byrdy1999 | ORCHARD PARK, NY
Sep 27, 2013

my grandmother, her parents spoke no english, married her off at 18, she managed to raise 3 children and work as a cleaning lady to put my mother through college...she is amazing

islandkimmi by islandkimmi | Manteo, NC
Sep 27, 2013

erin brockovich is inspirational... and congrats to awesome victory.

jul516 by jul516 | PALATKA, FL
Sep 15, 2013

I want to make a positive comment on Diana. She is truly a strong, inspirational woman with achieving this swim from Cuba to the Keys.

candyisverygood by candyisverygood | PHOENIX, AZ
Sep 15, 2013

Women in politics have inspired me the most, as it's a profoundly "man's" field and it has so much importance- Sotomayor, first Hispanic female Supreme Court Judge, Sandra Day O'Connor, first female Supreme Court judge, Nancy Pelosi, does her job better than most men in the same position, Michelle Obama, not just being a pretty first lady but playing an active role in the country while she can.

supermamalatina by supermamalatina | GREAT BEND, KS
Sep 15, 2013

I have a singer who inspires me her name Jenni Rivera because she had kids when she was a young girl and she finished her school and had a career. She inspires me to finish my school and finish a career even I have 3 kids.