HAVANA — Third time's a charm?
Endurance athlete Diana Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming 103 miles from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage.
Under a blazing afternoon sun at the Hemingway Marina in the Cuban capital, Nyad adjusted her cap and goggles, pointed to the open water, blew a bugle and cried: "Adios amigos! Courage!" Then she leaped in feet first and stroked out toward her support boat.
Less than a week before she turns 63, the Los Angeles woman is attempting a feat that even the fittest of human beings would find daunting. It's a dream that has taken three years of marathon open-water training swims and multiple aborted attempts at the crossing.
In the summer of 2010, unfavorable weather kept her from even setting out. Last year, first a debilitating asthma attack and then painful, dangerous stings from box jellyfish forced her from the water on two separate attempts.
This time Nyad is banking on a custom-made swimsuit to protect her from the jellyfish. It covers her head-to-toe with a pantyhose face and holes only for her eyes, nose and mouth.
Asked whether she would make another attempt if the weather, currents and marine life all cooperate but she is physically not up to the task, Nyad suggested that even she has a limit.
"Sitting here, I can't address that," Nyad said. "I have to say, it's too much. I've asked too many people to put in too much. We know what we're doing. This has to be it. It just has to be."