Cullen Jones Proud To Be a Part of Make a Splash Initiative (Video)

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

To most American swimmers, Cullen Jones will be remembered as one of the four heroes that brought home gold in the men’s 400 freestyle relay at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. However, to a select group of young swimmers, Jones will be remembered as a hero who taught them how to swim.

As a part of NBC’s “Race for Gold” series, Jones discussed his long journey to obtaining that gold medal, how he almost drowned as a child and how he is working to prevent this from happening to America’s youth. He said that even though he was extremely proud of his Olympic gold, he was hit hard after a friend showed him the drowning rate of African-Americans. After learning that African-Americans were three times more likely to drown than any other ethnic group, Jones knew he needed to do more in the sport.

“I was five years old and I almost drowned. My mom got me into lessons, and it took me three years to be comfortable,” Jones told a group of future African-American swimmers.

Speeches such as these, along with swim lessons where the kids are actually in the water with the Olympian, were made possible by Jones’ work with the USA Swimming Foundation, Phillips 66 and the Make a Splash Initiative. Jones credited the success of his program to these organizations.

“For some of you it might be super easy, for some of you it might not, and that’s okay. You’re here to learn,” Jones said.

“I saw myself in some of these kids,” he continued. “Even though I swim miles and miles, and yardage upon yardage, to see these kids put their face in the water for the first time or blow bubbles for the first time, by seeing those little triumphs I figured out it was fueling me and my devotion to the sport, it made it fun for me.”