MGN Online

Published: Sep 01, 2014 3:41 PM EDT

KEY WEST, Fla.- A bronze plaque honoring endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has been installed on the Florida Keys beach where last year she successfully ended a 53-hour swim from Havana without a shark cage.
    
Nyad staggered ashore at Smathers Beach in Key West on Sept. 2, 2013, after swimming 110 miles. It was her fifth attempt to complete the Cuba-to-Florida swim.
    
The plaque marking Nyad's achievement was unveiled Monday, and it will be installed on a concrete wall bordering the beach. The city of Key West also has commissioned a life-size metal sculpture of Nyad.
    
Wearing a blue T-shirt bearing her motto, "Find a way," Nyad said she took pride in what she accomplished.
    
"I wanted to be a person who doesn't give up, who chases big dreams, even if you don't make it there," she said. "I lived those lessons out loud. Now it's up to me to live them without the Cuba swim. But I feel them in my heart, and I think I have proven to myself that I am that person."
    
Nyad first attempted the swim across the Florida Straits in 1978 at age 29 with a shark cage. She didn't try again until 2011 when she was 61, and she failed two more times before her fifth attempt over last year's Labor Day weekend. After the swim, Nyad faced criticism from open water marathon swimmers who questioned her team's documentation of her time in the water, along with her methods and equipment.
    
Nyad said she has set another epic goal for herself - a walk from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in 2016 to raise awareness for obesity prevention, and she wants to enlist a million people to walk with her.
    
"We're probably going to start right before Memorial Day and finish right after Labor Day. That's the idea - 25 miles a day. People can do it if they get training now," she said.
    
On Saturday, Nyad was in Havana to receive Cuba's Order of Sporting Merit award. First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel called Nyad's feat a symbol of friendship between Cuba and the U.S.

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