Diana Nyad’s Swim

Distance swimmer Diana Nyad had been pulled from the water by her support team just 50 miles short of Key West in her latest attempt to swim from Cuba to the U.S. During four valiant tries Nyad has battled adverse currents, storms, stinging jellyfish, asthma problems, dehydration, and exhaustion. Given the costs, time commitment for her support team, and general strain on her body, this may have been the 62 year old’s last attempt.

Competitive and goal-driven people, as Nyad seems to be, are all about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I doubt, no matter what she says publicly, that she’ll give herself much credit for the huge effort involved in each swim, for going at it four times, and for getting within 50 miles of her goal. She gave it all she had and couldn’t finish. Hard stop.

I do give Nyad credit. She had a vision, was able to gather people around her as a support team who believed in that vision not once but four times, and truly did give every ounce of skill and energy that she had.

The story doesn’t always have the ending that we long for, but it’s a story nonetheless.

I think of Mount Everest climbers, some of whom die because they can’t or won’t turn back from achieving the summit. Sometimes the story of valiant athletic adventure ends that way too.

What do we say of people who reach for something more than most of us would ever think of attempting, and yet fall short? Is it something? Is it nothing? Is it a story that we tell, or one that we cast aside as unfinished and not worthy of note?

I think it’s something, but I’m falling short of finding the words to say exactly what. Your thoughts are welcome.

2 thoughts on “Diana Nyad’s Swim

  1. I am fascinated by Diana Nyad and her drive to tackle open water. Maybe her gift seemed mermaid-like at first, but as I have read more about her and how pushes herself time and again to the brink of drowning, I wonder what’s in her mind. She was so badly stung last time out that she almost died, and took months to recover.

    It’s timely that this story comes after the glut of Olympics watching. These young people are trained not only as athletes, but to be camera-wise, as every emotion is caught and broadcast. I saw heartbreak and disappointment quickly shift to “game face”, and I marveled at their control. For some of them, it was a last chance at their Olympic dream. Like Nyad in this past challenge.

    I can’t believe that at 62, Nyad will hang it all up and start knitting in a rocker. I hope that she looks at what she’s done as amazing and successful, and that she’s able to channel all this intensity into something else in her life, water-related or not. All that energy and focus is raw power.

    Now that you mention it, I think I’ll go find her website and write something supportive on it.

  2. For Mary: I find her fascinating too. I know that she almost died on her last attempt. I like to try hard, but something in me pulls back before going over the edge. No dying on an icy slope on Everest gasping for air for me.

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