KEY WEST, Fla. – A 49-year-old grandmother and veteran endurance swimmer scuttled her quest early Sunday to become the first woman to swim unaided from Cuba to the Florida Keys, unable to close the gap on the last 26 miles of a more than 100-mile ocean odyssey.
Penny Palfrey had fended off painful jellyfish stings while keeping an eye on hammerhead sharks as she attempted the crossing without a shark cage. But her support team said the tricky currents of the Florida Straits proved to be her biggest obstacle, pushing her east so that she ended up losing ground just as she was achingly close to her goal, her husband, Chris Palfrey, said.
All told, the British-born Australian athlete had been swimming nearly 41 hours since plunging into balmy waters near Havana, Cuba, on Friday. She was about three-quarters of the way into her swim when she gave up the effort about midnight, just 26 miles south of Floridas Key West.
Penny has been 100 percent focused on this swim for a year, so she was quite a bit upset. There were of course some tears. She didnt know what was happening until we told her, so it took a few minutes while she took that in, her husband said during a news conference in Key West.
She was hospitalized Sunday, receiving IV drips and pain medication. Painful blisters and ulcers under her tongue made it difficult to talk.