Who better to celebrate traveling the world than the savvy traveler herself?
Diana Nyad, champion athlete, world traveler and journalist, regaled a crowd of 50 gathered at the Carson City Library on Monday with tales of her feats -- from swimming with whales in Patagonia to bicycling Vietnam. A lover of libraries and travel -- a perfect fit for the library's National Library Week "Travel the World@Your Library" celebration -- Nyad offered library guests a view of the world from someone who has been there, done that. Through an enthusiastic presentation, complete with swim stroke demonstrations on stage, she noted her gratitude for a life that has afforded her opportunities to see the world and swim its lakes, rivers and oceans.
"The world is basically 4/5ths water, and me and this little posse of mine have basically swam all of it," Nyad said only half joking.
An investigative sports journalist for Fox News and host of National Public Radio's "The Savvy Traveler," Nyad set world-records in long-distance swimming through the 1970s. To the crowd that listened to her tales of far flung "epic adventures," she imparted advice to live each day as if you couldn't live it any better.
Those words were imprinted on her mind by a 16-year-old teammate before her swim in the 1968 Olympic trials. She wanted to go to Mexico City more than anything, and had spent a decade training for it. But a devastating sexual assault by her beloved coach set her back. Noting her lack of focus, her friend told Nyad to focus on the fingernail of her pinkie.
"'How much time does that represent? A sliver. That's what I want you to focus on,'" Nyad recalled her friend saying.
For Nyad, that meant getting into the water and swimming as if she couldn't "have done it a fingernail better." She came in sixth but knew that everything would be all right. She resolved to life her life with that valuable lesson in mind.
"When the last day comes, I want to close my eyes and clench my fists like I did (at the Olympic trials) and say I didn't always win. I didn't always accomplish what I wanted, but I couldn't have done it a fingernail better," Nyad said.
In questions from the crowd, Nyad confessed she rarely swims anymore, was never particularly afraid of sharks during her grueling ocean swims and believes the world to be rife with good-hearted people.
"It's nice to hear stories about people who have dreams and make them come true," said Jerry Bartholomew, of Carson City.
Mallory Down, 10, of Carson City, confessed to the crowd she is a "girly-girl" who's not particularly interested in sports but jumped on the opportunity to get some swimming advice from Nyad.
"I think it's great for kids to meet influential people, " said Jeff Downs, Mallory's dad. "She's lived a full life. I think we all dream of being great sports stars and it's neat to see someone who did it."
Library Week continues today with brown-bag lunches and "Wild Nevada" videos, an information program on national and international programs offered by Elderhostel and a look at the early days of the telephone in Carson City.
Today's Travel the World@Your Library events:
12:15 p.m. Wild Nevada video episode #104, "Mt. Charleston and Red Rock"
1:15 p.m. Wild Nevada video episode #106, "Pyramid Lake and Back Rock"
2:30 p.m. Floyd Hill, ambassador for Elderhostel, with a presentation on quality travel for mature people.
7 p.m. Nevada Landmarks Society presents "The Ladies of the Bell Telephone," switchboard stories from the early days of Carson City.
For information, call the library at 887-2244.