Diana Nyad swimming Sunday off Key West, Fla. (Andy Newman / Associated…)
Diana Nyad, the 64-year-old endurance swimmer who on Monday became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, trained for years at the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena.
As soon as news broke that Nyad had finally completed the feat, on her fifth attempt, her fellow Rose Bowl Swmmers celebrated her and marveled that they had been able to witness her perseverance and commitment as she swam a seemingly endless series of laps in the narrow gutter lane closest to the wall of the 50-meter pool.
"I start early in the morning and see her,” said lifeguard Dean Shipman. "In the afternoon she's still there and coming out in the early evening....She just keeps on going.”
Sid Heyman, 83, of Rosemead who comes to the Aquatics Center for an arthritis swim class, said Nyad’s accomplishment had rendered him “speechless.”
"I don't know how she does it,” he said. “I have a hard time staying in the water for an hour."
Maria Ekizian recalled speaking to Nyad a few years back on the Rose Bowl pool deck after her failed third attempt at the Caribbean channel.
“I said ‘I am a big fan,’ ” said Ekizian, who swims at noon with the Rose Bowl master’s swim team. “She wanted to know my name and what event we were all training for. It was hard for her to imagine that we all weren’t training for some very specific goal.”
Without being asked, Nyad told Ekizian the obstacles that had blocked her from finishing the marathon swim. “It was like she needed to explain. That was more a conversation she was having with herself,” said Ekizian. “I thought she was an icon anyway, for just giving it a shot.”
After her last attempt, Nyad received hugs and good wishes from the master's swimming group. She received the words politely, but it was clear she had not given up on her dream. After her previous marathons, it never took Nyad long to return to the pool.
"She is an inspiration to everyone who has goals, even ones that seem far beyond human reach," said Ekizian, 47, who completes 2-mile swims in the ocean on many weekends.
When she emerged from the water Monday, Nyad announced that “we should never give up” and that “you’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
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