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Danny Groner

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3 Lessons From Diana Nyad's Failed Swimming Attempt

Posted: 08/14/11 03:33 PM ET

For a short time this week, the world rallied behind a 61-year-old woman hoping to swim from Cuba to Florida. But Diana Nyad's dream came to a disappointing end on Tuesday because of wind, currents and asthma problems, according to reports. After swimming for 29 hours, Nyad called it quits, 53 miles short of her destination. In spite of Nyad's failure, commentators -- and Nyad herself -- have found lessons and inspiration inside of the mission. Here, the best takes:

  • Chicago Sun-Times editorial: "We see a stirring triumph... So what if she missed by miles and hours? Nyad has provided baby boomers approaching Medicare with some valuable lessons on how to think about age and the limits of the body." It concludes, "If there's been a more inspiring athletic performance this year -- harnessing an indomitable spirit to the all-too-domitable flesh -- we missed it."
  • Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald: "Nyad's swim is about still having it, about harboring a dream, unfulfilled but never lost, never abandoned to the implacable demands of earning a living, paying a mortgage, raising a family. Nyad discovered that, oftentimes, the battle is with our own self-imposed obstacles: fear of failure, fear of what others might think, even fear of sharks and jellyfish. Nyad plunged into the gulfstream waters of an extreme dream one Sunday evening, a woman on a mission. A day and a half later, she emerged a few miles short but many times more courageous, a woman who taught us a priceless lesson."
  • Amy Moritz: "Nyad attempted this same swim in 1978 when she was 29 years old. While she went on to set a world record for open water distance the next year, her failed Cuba to Florida swim gnawed at her. She had stopped swimming for 31 years. She was engaged in other life pursuits. Yet something called her back to the water, back to this original 103-mile swim. When something goes wrong, I tend to feel shame and embarrassment. Would I be able to return to a failed attempt and try again? That's gutsy and confident."