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64-year-old woman becomes first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad succeeds on fifth attempt at crossing after she first tried in 1978

Diana Nyad, an endurance swimmer from New York, has become the first swimmer to make the 110 mile journey from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida without the use of a shark cage.

The 64-year-old, who has already attempted the journey five times in the last 36 years, swam continuously for 53 hours, wearing a full body suit, gloves and boots and a specially designed silicone mask to protect her from jellyfish.

Wading out of the water at Key West, Florida, Nyad appeared sunburnt, exhausted and dazed as a crowd of supporters surrounded her to celebrate the world record. Nyad’s lips also appeared bruised and swollen as a result of the protective mask she had worn during the journey.

“You are never too old to chase your dreams,” Nyad said as she emerged from hospital several hours after being treated for dehydration, swelling and sunburn.

Barack Obama was among the many public officials and celebrities who wished the 64-year-old congratulations, tweeting: “Never give up on your dreams.”

Diana Nyad first came to prominence as an endurance swimmer in 1975, when she swam the circumference of Manhattan.

She then attempted the long distance journey from Cuba to the US five times, first in 1978 at the age of 28.