KEY WEST — With 10 TV cameras rolling, and several digital recorders turned on, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad began her celebratory news conference Tuesday in true Diana Nyad form, exclaiming loudly: "We (expletive) did it."
The dazed swimmer who emerged from the Atlantic Ocean and staggered onto Smathers Beach in Key West on Monday afternoon — after an epic 110.7-mile, nearly 53-hour swim across the treacherous Florida Straits — was gone.
Less than 24 hours later, with her 35-year dream fulfilled and a new long-distance world record to her likely credit, Nyad held court for more than an hour at a marina restaurant, all while standing on her feet and animatedly working the room. She heaped praise on team members, one by one. She sang a Neil Young song. She philosophized about the seemingly impossible quest, her age of 64 and the previous failures.
She even admitted, to the chagrin of her friend, trainer and business partner Bonnie Stoll, that she rooted for fellow endurance swimmer Chloe McCardell to fail in her attempt earlier this year and thought some locals in Key West were traitors for working with McCardell and on Penny Palfrey's attempt in 2012.
"You know, it's not my ocean. I don't own it, and many people have tried," Nyad said.
While Nyad said she has the utmost respect for McCardell and Palfrey, "We're competitors." And this Havana to Key West route is "the Mount Everest of oceans. It's epic. You want to be the first."
The swim was Nyad's dream, one that she first tried in 1978 when she thought she was in the prime of her life — at age 28.
Now, at 64, she said that she realizes she got it all wrong. The "dead center prime" of her life is right now.
"I don't wake up every day feeling like a woman," she said. "I don't feel like a gay woman. I don't feel like I'm 64. I just wake up and bound out and grasp the next day.
"I'm so proud of my team, and I'm so proud of myself."
Next month, she plans to swim 48 hours straight in an Olympic pool that is going to be put in Herald Square in New York City to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims.
Nyad, who endured stormy winds and swells of 3 to 5 feet said of the pool swim: "That's going to be a breeze."