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First person completes Cuba-to-U.S. swim

Aussie swimmer reaches Key West

May 12, 1997
Web posted at: 12:44 p.m. EDT (1644 GMT)


FORT TAYLOR BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Australian distance swimmer Susie Maroney wearily stepped ashore at Key West, Florida, Monday afternoon, the first person to swim the 112-mile Florida Straits from Cuba to the United States.

"I'm really happy about it," Maroney said as she was helped from the surf on Key West's Fort Taylor Beach.

Maroney, who failed in an attempted to make the same swim last June, completed the crossing just over 24 hours after diving into the water in Havana, Cuba. Strong winds and rain overnight nearly forced the 22-year-old swimmer to abandon this crossing as well, but Maroney felt strong enough at first light to finish her journey.

Australian swimmer ends first successful swim from Cuba to the U.S.
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Support team member Joe Pagniatello told CNN that the cage protecting the swimmer from sharks was damaged overnight, but neither the cage damage nor the poor weather was enough to scuttle the swim.

"Before sunrise, they were talking about not completing the swim," he said.


The swimmer passed her original destination -- uninhabited Sand Key, Florida -- earlier Monday, and decided to continue on to Key West, seven miles beyond.

Maroney, whose crossing was the first of 50 official attempts to be completed, has crossed the English Channel twice and holds the record for the Manhattan Island race.

She also held the record for most distance covered in 24 hours -- 58 1/2 miles (94.1 kilometers). Her Florida Straits swim eclipsed that record.

Last year, Maroney stopped 12 miles from her goal when dehydration and illness forced her to leave the water after 38 1/2 hours and 107 miles.


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