Olympic Swimmer Finds Gold at Local Business
Last updated 10/1/2023 at 4:43pm
The statement "it happens to the best of us" couldn't be any more true for Cullen Jones. The four-time Olympic medalist and first African-American to hold a swimming world record, nearly drowned at a water park when he was five. Now, after an accomplished career, he's using his platform to promote water safety around the USA, and Goldfish Swim School was his most recent stop.
Jones visited the school's Plainfield and Naperville locations on Sept. 23 to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of their program. There are currently 125 locations across the US and Canada, and with their work, a total of more than 11 thou- sand children have been taught to swim.
"The mission statement of Goldfish is what drew me to it," Jones said. "They understand that swimming is a life skill. You learn to walk, you learn to talk, you learn to swim, because unfortunately, the drowning rates in the US are astronomical." Jones cited that drowning is the leading cause of death for children aging 1-4, and that this Labor Day weekend was one of the deadliest in history on the beaches of Chicago.
His works to promote safety and awareness include being an ambassador for Goldfish Swim School, as well as the USA Swimming Foundation's "Make A Splash" program. Jones also recently received an award from the International Swimming Hall of Fame for his work. "Cullen's top priority has always been water safety, and that really aligns with what we do at the school," marketing director Kristina Young said. "Our main and highest priority is to teach kids how to be safe in and around water."
Jones and the teachers at Goldfish will always say the biggest thing to remember when learning to swim is to relax and have fun. As soon as he walked into the school, Jones noticed how its program stays true to this lesson.
"One of the first things that I liked about Goldfish is that Bubbles, the goldfish mascot, is on the ceiling, so when kids turn on their backs to float, they're distracted by Bubbles instead of worrying about the water," Jones said. "The idea is genius." Now, with an impressive resume both in and out of the water, Jones can only look back on his goals coming to fruition. However, he isn't satisfied with his current results, and continues to push for water safetymand awareness daily.
"For my development, it took a village," Jones said. "It wasn't just me swimming and staring at a black line the whole time. I had my mom's carrot sticks, my dad making sure I got up on time, and my church that I leaned on. I understand that for true change to happen, it takes more than one person or a few people. For me teaching kids to swim, it feels like my life has come full circle. This is my life's work, and it's something that I'm extremely proud of, but there's still work to be done."