Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Meet five thrill-seeking women breaking world records

By Charlotte Lytton, for CNN
updated 11:21 AM EDT, Wed September 4, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Diana Nyad completed a landmark swim from Cuba to the Florida Straits this week
  • The 64-year-old had made five attempts to finish the trip since 1978
  • CNN looks at five women who have broken world records in extreme sports

Editor's note: Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time. Each month, we meet two women at the top of their field, exploring their careers, lives and ideas.

(CNN) -- When it comes to living on the edge, there are some women who have the tenacious spirit to conquer all.

Whether it's scaling the world's highest peaks or becoming the first person to cross a dangerous ocean stretch, these extreme sportswomen have smashed records around the globe thanks to their fearless sense of determination.

On the heels of Diana Nyad's record breaking swim, CNN takes a look at five sports stars who have reached the very top of their game.

Diana Nyad

After 35 years and five attempts at swimming from Cuba to Florida, 64-year-old Diana Nyad has finally made her name as the first person to cross the treacherous Straits. Wearing a mask to protect her from the trip halting jellyfish bites that plagued her last effort, the endurance swimmer is the only person to complete the 177 km (100 m) journey without either a wetsuit or a shark cage. Describing her achievement as 'a lifelong dream,' Nyad, who made her first attempt to cross the waters in 1978, was also congratulated by President Obama via Twitter.

Read more: Nyad's next challenge will be a 48 hour swim in New York City

Edurne Pasaban

As a keen young mountaineer, Edurne Pasaban made her hobby into a record breaking profession by becoming the world's first woman to climb all 14 peaks over 8,000 meters. The 44-year-old Spaniard spent nine years working her way to the top of the world's biggest summits before completing her quest in 2010, and was named as National Geographic's Adventurer of the Year in 2011. With the likes of Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga under her belt, Pasaban has seen some of the world's most beautiful landscapes from a viewpoint only reached by a select few.

Juliana Buhring

Guinness World record holder Juliana Buhring is the first and fastest woman to cycle the globe. Her epic journey took her across four continents and 19 countries in 152 days, racking up 29,065 km (18,060 miles) in the process. The intrepid cyclist was also the sole female competitor in an unsupported race from London to Istanbul in 2013, further demonstrating her record smashing prowess.

Watch: Juliana Buhring's tough moment

Felicity Aston

Adventurer Felicity Aston became the first woman to ski across Antarctica in 2012 -- a feat she achieved without the use of either kites or parasails. Covering 1744 km (1083 miles) in 59 days, Aston's solo expedition made a change from her group ventures, which have seen her lead teams across the likes of Greenland and the South Pole. Her upcoming mission will see her and two fellow explorers cross northern Europe and Siberia to reach the Pole of Cold -- a three month trip that will cover a whopping 30,000 km (18,641 miles).

Read more: Adventurers recreate Antarctic survival story

Amber Bourke

Australian free diving champion Amber Bourke only discovered the sport a few years ago -- and yet she has already broken the women's world record, just two years after she began competing. Diving to victory at the championships in Belgrade, Serbia, the former synchronized swimmer set a personal best at 164 m -- although her achievement was bettered just moments later by two fellow competitors. Able to hold her breath underwater for five minutes, Bourke has also beaten several national records in her home country.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:45 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Imagine a gadget that knows your mind better than you do.
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Tue August 5, 2014
When your grandmother is one of the most famous cosmetics moguls in history, it might put a little pressure on you to succeed.
updated 4:41 PM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
bbf
When Bobbi Brown set out to create her eponymous makeup line in 1991, she had one thing to her mind -- to make a lipstick that looked like lips.
updated 5:14 AM EDT, Tue July 15, 2014
The Cornell educated executive, who is hotly tipped as the successor to magnate Steve Wynn, is about to unveil the latest Wynn Palace in Macau.
updated 7:54 AM EDT, Thu July 3, 2014
From Coco Chanel to DVF, CNN takes a look at celebrated fashion designers and the iconic pieces which launched their careers.
updated 9:49 AM EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
2 Caption:Avignon, FRANCE: Serb artist Marina Abramovic performs in 'The Biography Remix' directed by Michael Laub from Netherlands, 10 July 2005 at the Benoix-XII house during the Theater Festival held in Avignon southern France. AFP PHOTO ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT (Photo credit should read ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
CNN meets Serbian-born New-York based performance artist Marina Abramovic, as she embarks on the most controversial show of her career.
updated 11:06 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
She turned her bohemian beach style and love of ballet shoes into a billion-dollar brand. This week on Leading Women, fashion designer Tory Burch reveals her ultimate style guru.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Meet Mo Abudu, the talk show host portraying a very different Africa. As a glamorous presenter, she also heads up Ebony Life TV network, based in Nigeria.
updated 5:36 AM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
A lone blonde woman, wrapped in nothing but a sarong, leads four camels and a little dog across one of the most inhabitable environments on Earth.
updated 8:16 AM EDT, Fri April 11, 2014
Their job is capturing the most horrifying images on Earth -- keeping their eyes open, where others must look away. Meet Kate Brooks and Gerda Taro, the war photographers of today and yesterday.
updated 11:50 AM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Former U.S. State Deparment Anne-Marie Slaughter says Brad Pitt is 'posterchild for engaged fatherhood'.
ADVERTISEMENT