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Woman Swims From Mexico to Cuba

June 2, 1998

HAVANA (AP) _ Australian Susie Maroney became the first person to swim from Mexico to Cuba on Monday, completing the estimated 122-mile crossing in less than 39 hours.

Maroney, 23, touched Cuban soil at 5:03 a.m., walking onto the beach at Las Tumbas in eastern Cuba. She said Monday afternoon that she was still feeling a bit weak.

``I’m just really relieved that it’s all over,″ she told The Associated Press in Havana.

Maroney said she crossed the Yucatan Channel in 38 hours and 25 minutes, swimming in a shark-proof cage towed by her support team.

She suffered jelly fish stings and bruised wrists from hitting the cage, but otherwise was in good shape.

Last year Maroney became the first woman to swim from Cuba to Florida when she completed 118 miles in a record 24 hours and 34 minutes.

The crossing from Mexico’s Isle Mujeres, near Cancun, to Cuba was more difficult, she said.

The water was very choppy, she swallowed a lot of sea water and suffered from seasickness, she said.

``It was definitely the hardest swim,″ she said.

Though she said there were moments when she feared she wouldn’t finish, Maroney’s spirits were boosted by the sight of dolphins and turtles and the goal of becoming the first person to make the crossing.

``You do it for yourself personally,″ she said. ``It’s just the best feeling when you touch the sand and you realize you’ve swam the furthest.″

Australian media reported that if the 122 miles distance is verified, Maroney will be able to claim the record for the longest distance ever swum at sea: In 1976, American marathon swimmer Walter Poenisch swam 121.5 miles wearing flippers in the Straits of Florida.

Maroney’s support team said the 122 miles is the farthest any person has swum in the ocean without the aid of flippers and she will claim it as a new ``honest distance″ world record.

Maroney has been swimming long distance since she was 14, and has crossed the English Channel twice. She set the women’s record for longest distance covered in 24 hours without the aid of ocean currents _ 58.5 miles _ set in a swimming pool in Brisbane, Australia on July 2-3, 1993.

Maroney plans to spend a few days in Cuba, and is contemplating her next swim.

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