KEY WEST — A 49-year-old grandmother and veteran endurance swimmer scuttled her quest early Sunday to become the first woman to swim unaided from Cuba to the Florida Keys, unable to close the gap on the last 26 miles of a more than 100-mile ocean odyssey.
Penny Palfrey had fended off painful jellyfish stings while keeping an eye on hammerhead sharks as she attempted the crossing without a shark cage. But her support team said the tricky currents of the Florida Straits proved to be her biggest obstacle, pushing her east so that she ended up losing ground, her husband, Chris Palfrey, said.
All told, the British-born Australian athlete had been swimming nearly 41 hours since plunging into balmy waters near Havana, Cuba, on Friday to start out. She was about three-quarters of the way into her swim when she gave up the effort early Sunday, just 26 miles south of Florida's Key West.
Palfrey was hospitalized Sunday, receiving IV drips and pain medication. Painful blisters and ulcers under her tongue made it difficult to talk. Her husband said it was too early to discuss the possibility of another attempt.
Palfrey had sought to become the first woman to swim from Cuba to the Keys without the aid of a shark cage. Australian Susie Maroney made the crossing in 1997 at age 22 with a shark cage. American Diana Nyad, 62, made two cageless attempts last year.