KEY WEST, Fla. - Defeated before in bids to swim from Cuba to Florida, Diana Nyad would cry and rage through swollen lips and welts at the jellyfish tentacles that had repeatedly lashed her and derailed her plans to become the first swimmer to make the 110-mile crossing without a shark cage.

Her lips were swollen Monday, as in the past, when she emerged from the waters off Key West, but the 64-year-old American endurance swimmer managed a tight smile for supporters and said one word: "Seawater." And this time, she was victorious.

"She freaking made it," her website trumped, along with the words "Party time."

The stinging sea life that had plagued her four previous attempts to swim the Florida Straits— and the attempts of other swimmers trying to complete the same stretch — failed to appear until the final hours of her journey. That left Nyad free to concentrate on defeating the elements and persevere through about 53 hours in the water until she could step on dry land.

Dazed and sunburned, the athlete waded ashore finally free of the protective silicone mask that had bruised her mouth and a fully-body "jellyfish suit" that she conceded were necessary for the swim she began Saturday — even if they weighed down her crawl strokes.

She was free, too, of the nagging demons that drove her to attempt the treacherous crossing five times. She tried three times in 2011 and 2012. Her first attempt was in 1978.

President Barack Obama was among a flurry of public officials and celebrities who tweeted congratulations. The president's tweet echoed the sentiment Nyad has repeated many times when faced with defeat: "Never give up on your dreams."

Nyad's speech Monday was slurred as she neared her destination and after she made it to the beach, but she planned to address reporters Tuesday in Key West after rest and recovery.

Her doctor, Derek Covington of the University of Miami and Jackson Memorial Hospital, said the swimmer was healthy and would not need a long time to recover from dehydration, sunburn and the swelling in and around her mouth.

"She was incredible to watch the whole way through," he said.

Nyad leaped from the seawall of the Hemingway Marina into the warm waters off Havana on Saturday morning to begin swimming. She paused occasionally for nourishment, but never left the water until she reached the white sand beaches of the Keys and waded ashore.

The support team accompanying her had equipment that generated a faint electrical field around her, designed to keep sharks at bay. A boat also dragged a line in the water to help keep her on course as she kept up the strokes, hour after hour after hour. Along the way, her team said it spotted thunderstorms on the horizon and even reported on her blog that cruise ships made way for Nyad as she crossed busy ship lanes.

"I always thought she could do it given her internal energy, her mental and physical strength, her will of iron," Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, the Hemingway Marina commodore who helped organize the Cuba side of Nyad's multiple attempts, said Monday after Nyad landed in Florida.

"More than the athletic feat, she wants to send a message of peace, love, friendship and happiness ... between the people of the United States and Cuba," he added.

Australian Susie Maroney successfully swam the Strait in 1997 with a shark cage, which besides protection from the predators, has a drafting effect that pulls a swimmer along.

In 2012, Australian Penny Palfrey swam 79 miles toward Florida without a cage before strong currents forced her to stop. This June, her countrywoman Chloe McCardel made it 11 hours and 14 miles before jellyfish stings ended her bid.

In 1978, Walter Poenisch, an Ohio baker, claimed to have made the swim using flippers and a snorkel. Critics say there was insufficient independent documentation to verify his claim.

Nyad first garnered national attention in 1975 when she swam the 28 miles around the island of Manhattan in just under eight hours. In 1979 she swam the 102 miles from North Bimini, Bahamas, to Juno Beach, Fla., in 27.5 hours.

Nyad is also an author of three books, a motivational speaker and has been a reporter and commentator for NPR.

___

Associated Press writer Anne-Marie Garcia in Havana contributed to this report.

___

Follow Jennifer Kay on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jnkay .

___

Online: www.diananyad.com

Loading Slideshow...
  • Diana Nyad

    FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 file photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad emerges from the Atlantic Ocean after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad's swim from Cuba to Florida has generated some skepticism in the small community of marathon swimmers. Critics have suggested that during a speedy stretch of the 53-hour swim, Nyad might have gotten into or held onto the boat that accompanied her. They also question whether she violated the traditions of her sport by relying on a specialized mask and wetsuit to protect herself from jellyfish. Nyad's navigator and one of the swim's official observers tell The Associated Press that Nyad didn't cheat. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman, File)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, swims towards the completion of her 111-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is be first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, right, gestures a V for victory after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad, 64, is the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. The swim took Nyad 52 hours and 54 minutes, according to a support team member. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, center, is taken to Lower Keys Medical Center, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, after coming ashore at Smathers Beach in Key West, Fla. She completed a 103-mile swim in 53 hours. She became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Key West Citizen, Rob O'Neal) MIAMI HERALD OUT.

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau Diana Nyad emerges from the Atlantic Ocean after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad, 64, is the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. The swim took Nyad 52 hours and 54 minutes, according to a support team member. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau Diana Nyad emerges from the Atlantic Ocean after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad, 64, is the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau Diana Nyad, right, is supported by a longtime team member after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad, 64, is the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. The swim took Nyad 52 hours and 54 minutes, according to a support team member. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad tells supporters and fans that you are "never too old to chase your dreams" after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad, 64, is the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. The swim took Nyad 52 hours and 54 minutes, according to a support team member. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau Diana Nyad receives medical treatment after completing a 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Fla. Nyad, 64, is the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walks on to the Key West, Fl., shore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, as team members form a wall to protect her, as she becomes the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Nyad arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad

    Long distance swimmer Diana Nyad swims towards shore in Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Fans push towards long distance swimmer Diana Nyad, center, as she comes ashore, and is greeted by her trainer Bonnie Stoll, Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla., becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Nyad arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. Her trainer Bonnie Stoll (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Long distance swimmer Diana Nyad is greeted by former Key West Mayor Sonny McCoy as she is taken to the Lower Keys Medical Center after completing her historic swim from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. McCoy, now 86, successfully water-skied, on one ski, between the islands in 1978, the same year Nyad made her first of five attempts. McCoy's son, Sean, at right, chose a parasail to make his trip between Cuba and Key West in 1997. (AP Photo/The Key West Citizen, Rob O'Neal)

  • Diana Nyad

    Long distance swimmer Diana Nyad swims towards shore in Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad

    United States endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is greeted by a crowd as she walks on to the Key West, Fla., shore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Nyad arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad, Bonnie Stoll

    Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad, right, and her trainer, Bonnie Stoll hug after Nyad walks ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Key West, Fla. after swimming from Cuba. Nyad became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. She arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana nyad

    Fans of long distance swimmer Diana Nyad wait for her to make it ashore in Key West, Fla. Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 after swimming from Cuba. U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked to shore, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Nyad arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, swims towards the completion of her 111-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. The white underwater streamer, trailing from the support boat's boom, serves as a navigation aide for Nyad. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • A teammates waits for U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad to come ashore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, in Key West, Fla., after swimming from Cuba. Looking dazed and sunburned, U.S. endurance swimmer Diana Nyad walked to shore, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Nyad arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad

    United States endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is greeted by a crowd as she walks on to the Key West, Fla., shore Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the help of a shark cage. Nyad arrived at the beach just before 2 p.m. EDT, about 53 hours after she began her swim in Havana on Saturday. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, swims towards the completion of her approximately 110-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    CORRECTS DISTANCE OF TREK TO ABOUT 110 MILES INSTEAD OF 111 MILES - In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, swims towards the completion of her approximately 110-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, is escorted by kayakers as she swims towards the completion of her 111-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, Diana Nyad, positioned about two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, swims towards the completion of her 111-mile trek from Cuba to the Florida Keys. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    In this photo provided by the Florida Keys News Bureau, swimmer Diana Nyad talks with her crew less than two miles off Key West, Fla., Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. Nyad, 64, is poised to be the first swimmer to cross the Florida Straits from Cuba to the Florida Keys without the security of a shark cage. (AP Photo/Florida Keys News Bureau, Andy Newman)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, points towards Florida before her swim to Florida from Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, adjusts her goggles before jumps into the water and start her swim to Florida from Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, adjusts her swimming cap before her swim to Florida from Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, right, begins her swim to Florida from the waters off Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, jumps into the water to begin her swim to Florida from the waters off Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, begins her swim to Florida from the waters off Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, begins her swim to Florida from the waters off Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, salutes before her swim from Havana, Cuba, to Florida in Havana on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, greets her support team before her swim to Florida from Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. Endurance athlete Nyad launched another bid Saturday to set an open-water record by swimming from Havana to the Florida Keys without a protective shark cage. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

  • Diana Nyad

    U.S. swimmer Diana Nyad, 64, gestures as she explains the jellyfish bites she experienced in her previous attempt to swim from the Florida Straits to the U.S. mainland, in Havana, Cuba, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. The U.S. marathon swimmer arrived in Cuba Friday for her fifth attempt to swim across the Florida Straits to the U.S. mainland without a protective cage toward off shark attacks. The grueling swim is scheduled to start early Saturday, weather permitting. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)