How do you become an Olympian? Soon media attention will be focused on the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the spotlight will also be on Olympic gold medal winner, Cullen Jones. He didn’t start out as a child prodigy swimmer. In the early years after his Mom enrolled him in swim classes after a near drowning almost twenty years ago, Cullen says he found himself plodding away in the outside lanes before his long hours finally paid off.
He will compete in the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events and the 4×100-meter freestyle relay in London. Jones is the third African-American to make the US Olympic swimming team after Anthony Ervin and Maritza Correia. At the 2008 Olympic swimming trials, Jones broke the American record in the 50 meter freestyle with a time of 21.59. In the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, he won a gold medal in the 4×100 m freestyle relay in a world record time of 3:08.24 with Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and Garrett Weber-Gale and in 2009, Jones set the American record in the 50-meter freestyle at the U.S. National Championships in Indianapolis.
Swimming has paid off for Cullen Jones not only in the Olympic arena but also as a heartthrob role model who is getting national and international endorsements. Cullen is excited about the sport of swimming and competing in a few weeks in London as a returning athlete swimmer. Jones likes being a role model for young black aspiring swimmers, something he did not have when he began perfecting his strokes as a swimmer. In his early years, he was teased and bullied in his New Jersey neighborhood.
“Black children drown at a rate of more than three times that of white children, and a recent study sponsored by USA Swimming said that 58 percent of black children can’t swim. Jones didn’t realize the disparity in the sport until he was about 15 and started competing hard-core” writes ESPN reporter Elizabeth Merrill. Jone is on a mission to change that glaring statistic, one reason why he started the Cullen Jones Diversity Tour (www.cullenjones.com).
You become an Olympic swimmer one stroke at a time.
- Black People Don’t Swim? Cullen Jones Becomes America’s Fastest Swimmer (clutchmagonline.com)
- Cullen Jones to Swim in Three Events at London Olympics (colorlines.com)
- In Focus: Cullen Jones (the17thman.typepad.com)