Florida Keys News
Monday, September 1, 2014
1 year later, city honors Nyad at Smathers

These days, you can't walk the streets of Key West without bumping into world champion endurance swimmer Diana Nyad.

At least that was the experience of one island resident and her trusted dog the other day.

Nyad, whom the city will honor at 10 a.m. today with a plaque-installation ceremony at Smathers Beach, was power walking in the Casa Marina neighborhood Thursday with trainer Bonnie Stoll when a local dog on his owner's leash caught their eye.

A year ago this Labor Day, Nyad became an instant international superstar when she emerged from the ocean at Smathers Beach after swimming 110 miles from Cuba without a shark cage.

Callie Morehouse and her 2-year-old dog, Charlie, had a brief visit with Nyad and Stoll, who asked about the rescue mixed breed.

"I was on the beach last year when she landed," Morehouse said. "Charlie and I will be there at Smathers Monday. History was made."

Nyad's near 53-hour journey was a first and was completed on her fifth -- and final -- attempt, she had said before hitting the rough waters of the Florida Straits.

"She's in really great shape," Morehouse said. "She has the body of a twenty something-year-old. I asked her would she mind if I could take a picture of her and Charlie."

Charlie, however, who was on his regular walk to the nearby park, wouldn't cooperate, his owner said.

The pooch's park destination, the Mary and John Spottswood Memorial Park at Seminole and Alberta streets, is on the city's shortlist as a location for a Nyad statute, still in the planning stages.

"He was bent on getting to the park," Morehouse said. "I was like, Charlie, this woman swam a lot more than you ever swam. He was like, 'I'm going, I'm going.'"

Nyad and Stoll were gracious and kind, Morehouse reported.

"Charlie was nice but he was on a mission," she said. "I was embarrassed."

Morehouse and her canine pal may get another chance today, as city leaders gather to remember the exuberant moment when Nyad completed the epic swim.

Nyad and members of her crew spent the weekend in Cuba for celebrations there, but plan on attending Monday's Key West event to mark the one-year anniversary of her historic feat.

At least 2,000 people streamed onto Smathers Beach off South Roosevelt Beach, many coming from the mainland after they heard on social media or cable news that Nyad and her support team had been sighted by those on land.

Locals waived American, Cuban and gay pride flags on the beach, and everyone seemed to have some type of photographic equipment -- cell phone, iPad, point-and-shoot or more professional gear.

Reporters and camera operators from the traditional news media found themselves in a scrum of bodies while covering the sight of Nyad walking zombie-like onto the beach before paramedics put her on a gurney and started an I.V.

Key West officials plan to hold an international competition to find an artist to render a memorial statue of Nyad. The Art in Public Places board recommends installing it in Old Town.

Nyad proofread and approved the language on the bronze plaque that will mark her historic landing spot. The plaque will be on the concrete wall bordering the beach.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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