Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones aims to reduce black drowning deaths

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NBC’s Rock CenterOlympic 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.”

TheGrio’s 100: Cullen Jones, Olympic swimmer dives into teaching

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.

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