TODAY in London - 2012 Olympics News, Athletes & Countdown | TODAY.com Blogs
Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones describes the pool as feeling like “home,” but it wasn’t always that way. After nearly drowning as a 5-year-old child, Jones learned to swim and has made it his mission to reduce the startling number of drowning deaths among African-American children each year.
“I remember what it feels like to be underwater and I remember what it feels like to be helpless,” said Jones of the time he nearly drowned at a water park. "I was underwater, I couldn’t breathe…and then I completely passed out.”
Now 28 years old, the freestyle sprinter is gearing up for the London Olympics after winning a gold medal four years ago in Beijing. While Jones’ swimming talent is remarkable, his near drowning experience is not. A study by the University of Memphis and the USA Swimming organization showed that around 70 percent of African-American children don't know how to swim, compared to about 40 percent of white children. African-American children between the ages of five and 14 are three times more likely than other children to drown, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When the African-American Jones first learned these numbers a few years ago, he was shocked.