Olympic gold medalist to teach Chicago kids how to swim

Athlete hopes to improve swimming skills of African-American children, who are three times more likely to drown than white children.

August 24, 2012

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(Courtesy of U.S. Swimming)
Olympic swim gold medalist Cullen Jones.

African-American children are three times more likely to drown than white children.

That alarming statistic has motivated Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones to tour the country, educating communities about the importance of learning how to swim. On Saturday gold medalist Jones will be giving free lessons at the Washington Park Pool on Chicago’s South Side.

Jones, who is black, said he almost drowned at a waterpark when he was five years old. He doesn’t remember the incident, but his mom does.

“I can sit back, say I’m trying to help no other parent be or feel the way that my mom did when she told me that story,” Jones said.

After the waterpark experience, Jones’ mother enrolled him in swimming lessons. Jones said, “She pretty much kicked me back into the water and said, Okay, now we’re going to give you some lessons and at least get you water-safe.”

Jones said the challenge in getting youth to learn how to swim has nothing to do with them not loving water; instead, parents themselves don’t know how to swim, and they pass that down.

“The biggest thing we need to do is to make sure we give our kids the lessons to have the tools to save themselves,” Jones said.

At the London Olympics, Jones won one gold and two silver medals for Team USA.