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June 26, 2013

Failed Cuba-to-Florida swimmer won’t try again

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Australian who gave up her quest to swim from Cuba to Florida because of painful jellyfish stings said Thursday that she will not make another attempt.

Chloe McCardel told The Associated Press that she had picked June because the jellyfish danger was supposed to be low. But about 11 hours and 14 miles into her expected 60-hour, 110-mile journey, she found herself in a swarm.

“I had one coming out of my mouth. I was pulling it, this tentacle out of my mouth, but I don’t remember this moment. My kayaker told me that I was doing this, ’cause I have no recollection. I’m not coming back. That’s it,” she said.

The 28-year-old from Melbourne became the latest endurance athlete undone by the strong currents and fierce jellyfish of the Florida Straits on Wednesday night, abandoning her attempt to become the first person to swim across nonstop without a shark cage. The jellyfish caught her by surprise.

“I got smashed with them coming from every direction,” she said. “I would not have gone to all this trouble if I had known they would be out in such numbers in June.”

She was pulled out of the water and taken by one of her support vessels to Key West, where she was resting at a hotel Thursday. She said the trip back to land was excruciating.

“It was two and a half hours of the worst pain, continuously, every second, of my whole entire life. It’s like fireballs in every fiber,” she said.

It was the fifth failure involving three women who have tried to make the marathon swim the past three summers. Jellyfish stings and strong currents have been the main impediments.

Diana Nyad tweeted her commiseration. The endurance athlete has failed three times trying to make the same crossing and says she’d like to take another shot this summer.

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