Swimmer forced to quit Cuba-to-US record attempt

Contrary winds and currents forced the 61-year-old US swimmer Diana Nyad to abandon her bid to become the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

"Diana herself decided to end the swim... The combination of factors was too much to safely continue," her crew members said on her Twitter account after Nyad was pulled out of the water yesterday halfway through her attempt to swim the 103-mile (166 km) distance from Havana to Key West.

CNN, which had a producer on one of the boats accompanying Nyad, said she was vomiting when she was brought aboard an escort boat just after midnight on Tuesday.

Nyad was disappointed but in good spirits. "It felt like this was my moment. I don't feel like a failure at all. But we needed a little more luck," she said in a Tweet. "It's hard because I felt like I had it in me."

She had completed about 29 hours of the swim that had been expected to last about 60 hours. CNN producer Matt Sloane had earlier reported that Nyad had been experiencing twinges of pain in her shoulder and a touch of asthma.

Nyad, who had plunged into the warm sea at the Marina Hemingway on the western outskirts of the Cuban capital swam strongly for more than 24 hours before running into winds, rough seas and strong currents that buffeted her relentlessly. "Earlier in the evening, she was surrounded by dolphins and a beautiful Caribbean sunset. But strong currents blew her 15 mph (24 kph) off course," said a Tweet from her team.

Nyad first tried the crossing from Cuba in 1978 at the age of 28, but failed in the face of winds and heavy waves. The same swim was completed successfully in a shark cage in 1997 by Australian Susan Maroney, who was 22 at the time. Nyad's flotilla of escort vessels included kayaks transmitting an electronic anti-shark shield.