(ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Senior swimmer Diana Nyad stepped onto dry sand in Key West on Monday after swimming more than 100 miles through treacherous waters from Cuba, at last achieving a goal she has pursued for 35 years.
"Never, ever give up,'' Nyad, 64, said after becoming the first person to swim from Havana to the southernmost point in the continental United States without the assistance of a protective shark cage.
"You're never too old to chase your dreams,'' she added.
Nyad arrived on U.S. soil 53 hours after she slipped into the warm water at Havana's Hemingway Marina on Saturday, roughly 110 miles south of the beach where her arrival was greeted with celebration. She set a record for the longest ocean swim without a shark cage or flippers, according to her crew.
Nyad succeeded in the difficult solo crossing on her fifth attempt. She first tried in 1978 and made three other attempts in 2011 and 2012.
Her determination and perseverance in the face of nature's hazards and age's toll on the body drew wide admiration as an example of human triumph.
"Diana Nyad's remarkable achievement today is an inspiration to everyone,'' tweeted former Florida congressman and MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough.
Looking a bit dazed and puffy from her ordeal, Nyad made a few brief remarks on the shore, then was placed on a stretcher and given an IV with liquids before being taken by ambulance to a hospital.
"I have to say, I'm a little bit out of it right now,'' she said.
She pointed to her swollen lips and said simply, "Seawater.''
Her longtime friend, Diaz Escrich, said Nyad has "will of iron."