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Gold medalist teaches Chicago kids to swim

June 23, 2010 4:59:24 AM PDT
In 2008 at the Beijing Olympics, Cullen Jones became the first African American to win a gold medal for swimming.

Since then, the 4 x 100 freestyle swimmer is spreading the word about the importance of learning to swim in the minority community.

The first class in swimming lessons at Douglas Park Field House starts on dry land. The instructor is 26-year-old Cullen Jones. The Olympic champion now has a new mission in life. Along with Conoco Phillips 66, Jones is trying to get people, especially kids, into the water to learn how to swim.

"How to do the freestyle right," said Jordan Fenderson, 6-year-old new swimmer.

Jones isn't doing this just for fun. To him this is very serious business.

"The program is designed to bring awareness to kids getting swim lessons. There's a drowning rate that absolutely ... we like to think to consider an epidemic," said Jones.

It's an epidemic especially for minorities. According to a recent study, 70-percent of drowning victims are black or Hispanic.

"When seven out of ten minorities? after this statistic was done by the University of Memphis, (it) proves that African Americans don't know how to swim. It's a big problem in our community," said Jones.

So now besides training for the 2012 Olympics, Jones is pushing the importance of swimming lessons and he says anyone can learn.

"I'm better, I'm doing gooder," said Jordan Fenderson.

Jones, who almost drowned at the age of five, is in the middle of a six city tour promoting water safety.

"My life, I like to say, is kind of ironic that I almost drowned when I was five years old and now I'm 26-years old and I'm an Olympic Gold medalist."

Now he has more than a gold medal, he has swimming students with gold medal smiles.


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