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Jones was giving a lesson as part of USA Swimming's Make a Splash program. “But if you go to the Caribbean, it's unheard of for people not to know how to swim.
After a near drowning experience at the age of five, Cullen Jones’ mother enrolled him in swimming lessons, and the rest is history—literally.
Fast forward 23 years and Jones is returning home with silver and gold medals won at the 2012 Olympic games in London.
And while winning a medal is certainly a peak in his long career, Jones says one aspect of his life takes a back seat to his sport.
“Your social life takes a big dip because you have practice Saturday morning,” he says. As soon as I won in 2008 I was able to have a social life and then it’s like, ok, now you have to get ready for London.” Preparing for London meant a grueling number of hours practicing in the pool.
“It was gut-wrenching,” he says, now able to smile at the memory. Swimming Foundation and Phillips 66 with Make A Splash.” Although teaching children how to swim, carrying Olympic medals through airport security (which garner of TSA attention,) and traveling the world is pretty cool, to say the least, Jones says the best thing about being an Olympian is meeting all of his fans and onlookers, including Oprah Winfrey.
“Blood, sweat and tears every single day.” Growing up in Irvington, New Jersey, Jones perfected his craft by swimming with school and competitive teams, but calls himself a “late bloomer” as he didn’t consider trying out for the Olympics until college. Says Cullen: “They’re just as excited to meet me as I am to meet them, which blows my mind half the time.” TEN QUESTIONS WITH CULLEN JONES If you had an autobiography, what would be the title? I think that when I go into something that I’m not necessarily comfortable with, I’m not that confident. “The Olympics were never something I really associated myself with because I just never thought that was possible, “ he says. “I just liked [swimming].” Now, Jones is not only an experienced Olympic athlete, he’s a role model. He’s teamed up with two organizations to promote the Make A Splash initiative, which pushes the importance of knowing how to swim. Far too many Black children (some seven out of 10) don’t now how to swim, he says. USA Swimmer Cullen Jones, left, gives swim lessons to Tavion Traynham and five other 8-year-olds at the Butler-Gast YMCA in Omaha on Friday, March 14, 2008.