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Diana Nyad attempts 48-hour swim in NYC to raise money for Sandy victims

NEW YORK The 64-year-old woman who swam from Cuba to Florida is attempting to swim in a pool in midtown Manhattan for 48 straight hours to benefit victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Wearing a pink swim cap, Diana Nyad dove into the 40-yard pool set up in Herald Square and began doing laps shortly before 9 a.m. local time Tuesday. Her aim is to raise money for people still struggling a year after Sandy.

"It's going to be so magical to be out there," she said in an interview Monday with The Associated Press. "It's going to be a spectacle right in the middle of New York City."

Last month, the native New Yorker became the first person to have swum from Havana to Key West, Florida, without a shark cage.

"I'm from New York City and last year I was in town right after Sandy hit...You feel such tremendous compassion for people," Niad told last week. "You might sit down and write a little check for disaster relief -- whatever you can afford...And then it's not front page news and you forget about it....Well thousands of people haven't forgotten about it -- Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Far Rockaway -- all over New York and New Jersey."

She told the AP that one of her Manhattan swimming companions will be a dog named Roscoe that survived Sandy floodwaters. Also expected to join her are Olympic gold medalist Ryan Lochte and exercise guru Richard Simmons, dressed in a suit graced with about 300 Swarovski crystals.

Nyad said she may break otherwise strict athletic rules by hugging some of the humans joining her in the two-lane pool. "I'm going to feel the solidarity. And every penny is going to go right to the victims."

Contributions are being accepted by the disaster relief agency AmeriCares Foundation, which will distribute the funds.

Nyad's fame for her swim from Cuba was accompanied by speculation that she had gotten into or held onto a boat during part of her 53-hour journey. But on Monday, she waved off critics, saying, "there will always be naysayers."

"You dream about something for so long and you envision it -- literally 35 years ago I envisioned swimming all the way from Cuba and seeing the palm trees on that Florida shore," Nyad told last week. "And four times -- once way back when I was young and then three more times in my 60s, I tried like hell. But the dangerous jellyfish out there, the currents, the Gulf Sea itself, sudden thunderstorms that can be life-threatening. It's Mother Nature on steroids, this particular stretch. I hadn't made to finally see the oasis of that shore and swim in there with my teammates and walk up was truly a deep, profound contentment and dream come true of never having given up on it. I think I'm more proud of that than actually doing it -- that I didn't give up on it."

She insisted she wore no flippers, used no cage, did not get out of the water and was never supported by another human being for what she calls "the most epic swim in history."

Nyad expects the Manhattan swim to be far more fun than her feat in the ocean, which she expected to be "much more unforgiving" than two days of urban pool laps.

After this, she said she's looking to more "personal, creative" charity events using the portable pool - possibly to raise money for victims of tornadoes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks and other disasters.

And, she added with a grin, she may want to try her hand at another solo event - maybe a one-woman show on Broadway. She offered no details.