Cullen Jones hosts diverse swim meet in Charlotte

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comOctober 8, 2013 

Four-time Olympic medalist Cullen Jones will host a weekend swim meet in Charlotte expected to draw about 500 young swimmers to the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center.

With events running Friday through Sunday, most of the swimmers in the Cullen Jones Diversity Invitational meet will be African American as Jones tries to promote swimming in the black community.

A former N.C. State star swimmer who nearly drowned at a water park as a child, Jones has previously concentrated most of his outreach efforts on teaching minority children to swim in a program called “Make a Splash.”

“All the work I've done with ‘Make a Splash’ is to get kids in general to be water safe,” Jones said. “A lot of times, that's working with kids 14 and under. With this meet, I not only want to work with kids who can't swim, but also with ones who already do but don't know exactly what the next step is to take. So many people ask how did I get to be a professional swimmer, and this meet is me trying to show them a path.”

The CJDI meet is also supported by Speedo and the Queen City Dolphins, Charlotte's minority-based competitive swim team.

“I am using the word diversity loosely for this meet,” said Jones who won Olympic gold medals in both 2008 and 2012 while training in Charlotte with SwimMAC Carolina’s Team Elite. “This year and in the future as we get bigger, I want everyone to know that no one is going to be left out of this.”

Debra Jones, Cullen's mother, will be a guest speaker, and her session will be open to the public. She will discuss parenting at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at the aquatic center. To RSVP for her free talk, email cullenjonesdiversity@gmail.com.

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