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Wednesday, September 15, 1999 Published at 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK


World: Americas

Marathon girl swims to Cuba

Maroney is helped ashore by her boyfriend [left] and brother

A 24-year-old Australian has become the first person to swim from Jamaica to Cuba after a treacherous crossing through seas whipped up by Hurricane Floyd.

Susie Maroney staggered onto a remote Cuban beach late on Tuesday following her gruelling 36-hour, 190km (119 mile) haul.


[ image: Pauline Maroney says it was one of Susie's toughest swims]
Pauline Maroney says it was one of Susie's toughest swims
Her body was bruised and cut from being banged against her shark cage which was designed and donated by her most famous fan, Cuban President Fidel Castro.

The swimmer's limbs were red and swollen from jelly-fish stings and she had suffered sea sickness during the crossing.

''I'm very happy that it's over...I'm so glad to be out of the water," she said before an ambulance whisked her away for a medical check.

Maroney stepped onto the rainy Marea del Portillo beach at 1840 local time (2240 GMT) after her brother and boyfriend joined her for the last 100 metres.

Her mother Pauline Maroney said it was one of her daughter's toughest swims.

As a mark of his respect, Mr Castro was due to host a private dinner for the swimmer in Havana.

Hurricane

Maroney left Montego Bay, Jamaica, at sunrise on Monday, but quickly ran into difficulties when storms caused by Hurricane Floyd battered her and damaged the shark cage.

The hurricane, dubbed a "monster storm" by US weather officials, churned west through the Bahamas on Monday and Tuesday, whipping up winds of up to 250km/h (155mph).

Maroney later told how she had kept herself going through the most difficult periods by singing songs in her head, including hits by Madonna.

Maroney set a world long-distance swimming record in 1998 after swimming from Mexico to Cuba in 38 and a half hours.

Her other achievements include the fastest return crossing of the English Channel which she completed in 17 hours 13 minutes in 1991. And she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida in 1997 with a time of 26 hours 22 minutes.



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