When the United States won the gold medal for 4×100-meter freestyle relay, swimmers broke the world record twice at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Cullen Jones, the eight-man team’s only black member, swam both heats and became the second African-American swimmer to win a gold medal. Twenty-three years prior, he broke another statistic when saved from drowning.
Drowning fatalities are three times as likely to involve minorities than caucasians, which is why the USA Swimming Foundation targets the 70 percent of African-Americans and 60 percent of Latinos/Hispanics that cannot swim. According to NBC, the foundation partnered with Jones to change these statistics and educate children around the nation.
“[After his 2008 win] the Swimming Association approached me and put the drowning statistics in front of me and knowing that I myself was almost a part of that statistic, I felt like since I have a heart of service this [was] my way of giving back to a sport that has given me so much,” the two-time Olympic swimmer said.
The foundation’s Make a Splash Tour seeks to affect one million children this year alone. Before competing in the Pan-American Games, Jones and four Olympic swimmers travelled to four cities to give swim lessons in the tour’s seventh circuit. In July, his philanthropy earned him a spot in Swimming World Magazine’s “30 Most Influential People in Swimming Over the Past 30 Years.” He continues to be a symbol for water safety among American youth and minorities.