Cullen Jones Discusses Diversity in Swimming for Black History Month

2-time Olympic gold medalist and 4-time overall Olympic medalist Cullen Jones became the first African-American to hold a World Record in swimming when he swam a leg of the American World-Record relay at the 2006 Pan Pac Championships. Now, 12 years after that barrier-breaking accomplishment, he has a message for young swimmers of color.

“You don’t have to be the next me, or the next Simone Manuel. You don’t have to be the next Michael Phelps. But it’s just important to learn how to swim. Many times, people have fears about the water. Maybe they’ve had a traumatic incident, maybe they have that crazy uncle that threw them in the water and expected them to learn how to swim. Many of us have fears, and getting into the water is really facing those fears.”

Jones is an ambassador for the USA Swimming Foundation – a non-profit arm of the sport that helps teach lifesaving swimming skills to underprivileged or minority segments of the American population. Jones says that he’s proud of the work they’ve done, which includes decreasing the percentage of African-Americans who can’t swim from 70% to 64%.

Watch Jones’ message below, courtesy USA Swimming:

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6 years ago

Always an example to my young age grouper at swimmac to elevate through excellence. An important topic to discuss in our sport. Thanks!

Bon Jovi
6 years ago

I saw him at my meet last weekend!

6 years ago

Swimming is one of the most de facto discrimination sports

Reply to  Jmanswimfan
6 years ago

Nah… It is just like all others high-budget sports.
Poor counties/neighborhood suffer from lack of found, rich countries/neighborhood thrive.

Reply to  Emanuele
6 years ago

Yes, and how do practices like discrimination become so normalized that you can pretend they don’t exist and make excuses for the rich. Learn your history, Emanuele. Face it. Deal with it.

6 years ago

My history? Dude I’m italian… Segregation and slavery is american history.
But I repeat, swimming is a high budget sport, even in my country the young swimmer thrive where they have structure and suffer where they have not. It is not a racial thing…

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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