At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Jones was a member of the gold medal–winning 4 × 100 freestyle relay team, which set a world record time of 3:08:24. He also broke the U.S. record two years ago in the 50-meter freestyle at the world championships. But long before Jones, who qualified for both events and the 100-meter freestyle this year in London, swam his way to Olympic gold he nearly drowned at a Pennsylvania water park when he was five. "I didn't know how to swim," Jones remembers. "It was terrifying."
[Read how London 2012's pool is designed for speedsters like Cullen Jones to break world records]
Jones also found swimming statistics for African American children frightening. Nearly 70 percent of African-American kids, ages eight to 16, have little to no swimming skills according to a USA Swimming survey. Jones is determined to change that. Teaming up with USA Swimming's Make A Splash campaign, he travels the country, giving swimming lessons at city pools. "My own drowning scare and passion for swimming put a fire in my belly to help kids," Jones says. Since 2008, Make A Splash has reached over 850,000 kids, many of whom were scared of getting into the water. Jones, who has personally given lessons to kids in over 20 cities so far, says it's rewarding to see enthusiasm replace fear. "It's amazing," he says. "I'm here to help make those breakthroughs happen."
For more information, visit: Make a Splash (swimfoundation.org)