#9 Diana Nyad
American swimmer Diana Nyad is the world's most iconic distance swimmer, setting records in 1979 that stand to date. Nyad broke a series of world records, swimming extremely long distances without a wetsuit.
Initially wanting to compete in the Olympic games, Nyad saw her Olympic dreams crushed after a recovery from endocarditis left her unable to match her previous speeds. She had also been one of the top-ranked squash players in the United States of America, but chose eventually to focus on swimming instead.
Swimming from the Bahamas to Florida, Nyad set new records across the men's and women's distance swimming; on her 30th birthday in 1979, the swimmer, over a 27-and-a-half-hour journey, traversed a staggering 164 kilometres in waters that were known to be inhabited by sharks, without the use of protective gear.
In 2010, at the age of 61, Nyad began training again to traverse the distance from Cuba to Florida; she had first attempted this at the age of 28 when US travel restrictions to Cuba had just been lifted, but had then failed.
After four failed attempts, the fourth of which saw her stung by jellyfish and unable to continue, Nyad succeeded on her fifth. At the age of 64, she swam without a shark cage from the Cuban capital, Havana to Florida.
Openly lesbian, Nyad is a sports journalist who writes frequently on LGBT issues. She is a regular political commentator on issues affecting the LGBT community, and is a vocal and open figure for gay activism in the United States.