When the marathon swimmer Diana Nyad dropped into the water on Aug. 7, embarking on her attempt to swim from Havana to Key West, Fla., she seemed the embodiment of the George Eliot quotation “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

When she stopped on Aug. 9 — about halfway through the 103-mile swim — because of an asthma attack, a sore shoulder and strong winds, the 61-year-old swimmer was overwhelmed with disappointment, saying that she would not make another effort to cross the Florida Straits. After failing to accomplish the feat in 1978, and failing again this year, it seemed that the Xtreme Dream, as her 2011 expedition was called, had died.

But what a difference a week can make. On Wednesday morning, Nyad appeared on the Today show and when Natalie Morales asked her if she would try again, Nyad seemed much less rigid. “It’s like asking your best friend who just goes through a horrible divorce, you know, and loses custody of the kids, ‘Hey, are you going to get married again?’” she said. “It’s a tough time to ask.”

In another interview, Nyad, whose 62nd birthday is Monday, told Bill Dwyre of The Los Angeles Times, “The fairy tale didn’t end well, but I still have control over the fairy tale.”

Referring to her statements have the aborted effort, Nyad said: “What I said right afterward is not necessarily true. You’ve got me a week later. Right after, it would be like talking to a boxer on the canvas, still on his back and looking up at the bright lights. Now, I do not feel at peace the way this ended.”

In any case, Nyad made it clear in both interviews that she was proud of the effort she and her team had made. “My team and I can look back at the whole two years, including the swim itself, we were high on life,” Nyad told Morales. “It was an adventure. It was worth doing. No regrets. How else can we look back at anything we do in our lives? If you can look at it that way, you’re OK.”

And it seems most people are looking at Nyad’s effort that way, too. The people who have called Nyad a failure are widely outnumbered by those who see Nyad’s effort as a success. As Ana Veciana-Suarez put it in the 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.

Whether Nyad makes another attempt to cross the Florida Straits or not, she has already proved the truth of Eliot’s quotation.

 

 

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