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: