Live, Not Exist: The Diana Nyad Story

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two years, three weeks ago, I published this piece about Diana Nyad, the sixty-four-year-old swimmer who today successfully completed her swim from Cuba to Florida's Key West.

It took Nyad five tries. She never gave up. And as my agent, Amy Rennert, who is Diana's good friend, wrote earlier today, "Her accomplishment will be that much more satisfying after all of the earlier attempts.  What a story!  What an inspiration!" 

And so in honor of all of us who think we may be too old, or may be too unlucky, or may be not right, I repeat this story. This is how it looked two years ago. We know how it looks today.


"Think good positive thoughts for our friend Diana Nyad," my friend and agent Amy Rennert wrote in an email this past Monday.  "She's twelve hours into her historical swim from Havana to Key West.  About 48 hours to go."

Diana Nyad, I thought.  Diana Nyad?  (And then, the next thought:  48 hours to go?)  Just hours before I'd been reading the CNN story about this intrepid swimmer who was encouraging us all to look at right now as the most essential chapter of our lives.  "I'm almost 62 years old and I'm standing here at the prime of my life," she was quoted as saying.  "I think this is the prime.  When one reaches this age, you still have a body that's strong but now you have a better mind."

"How do you know Diana?" I emailed back, and soon Amy was explaining a friendship that has lasted some 30 years—its origins winding back to a super female athletes story Amy had long ago covered for Women's Sports magazine.  Diana Nyad, Amy said, was the greatest long-distance swimmer in the world.  She'd completed the 102.5 mile journey from Bimini to Florida years ago.  She'd once before attempted, in what proved to be tempestuous waters, the 100 miles from Cuba to Florida.  She'd circled Manhattan Island in world record time.  She was a Hall of Famer and (again) she was nearly 62 years old and now twelve hours into another historic swim.

Amy, meanwhile, was on a plane.  So were some two dozen other Diana Nyad fans, coming in from all across the country to cheer their heroine on.  "Just landed," Amy wrote to me, the next morning, 4:57 AM.

By the time Amy reached Diana, the history-making athlete had had to abandon her swim.  The water wasn't right.  A shoulder was nagging.  Amy sent me the news, but then she sent more word of the many faithful friends who were there when Diana's boat brought her in. 

Sometimes you don't quite get to where you'd wanted to go.  But let me ask you this:  Doesn't the heroism lie in the trying?  In getting back into that water after so many years, in re-doing the math on prime?  This post, then, is a celebration of Diana, photographed in the first shot by Christi Barli.  It's a celebration, too, of Amy Rennert (pictured in the second shot), who is always there for her friends. 


Caroline Starr Rose said...

What a woman! I hope to have such vigor in my sixties. Reminds me of Maya Angelou, who says her seventies are her best decade so far.

Serena said...

I was so happy and inspired by her recent accomplishment, and I wonder what she has in store next. I think she's far from done.

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