Cullen Jones became the third African-American swimmer to win a medal in the Olympic Games on Monday (August 11), and the second to win the gold.
Along with his teammates — Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale and anchor Jason Lezak — the U.S. set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle relay at Monday’s Beijing Games.
Cullen is still basking in the glory, but is also finally realizing that his feat will help in changing the sport of swimming.
“I was told, ‘You could change the face of swimming by getting more African-Americans into swimming,’ ” 24-year-old Jones told Today. “At first I was like, ‘Really, me?’ I never got into it thinking I could do something like that, you never do. I just liked to swim.”
U.S.A. smashed the world record they had set just hours earlier in the prelims, dashing through the water in a record 3 minutes, 8.24 seconds.
A few days after French world record holder Alain Bernard declared that his team would “smash” the Americans in the finals, the U.S. team stunned everyone, beating a team most thought were unbeatable.
“We love listening to other people talk stuff about us,” Jones, who swam the third leg, said to New Jersey’s Star Ledger. “It just fuels us to be ready and we don’t say anything until it’s over. When you see it in the pictures, that’s when we start celebrating … when we win.”
In the prelims, Jones had the fastest split at 47.61 seconds, despite failing to qualify for the 100-meter freestyle with a third-place finish at the U.S Olympic Team Trials.
However, U.S. coach Eddie Reese confirmed that he’d be on the team in the finals, and he didn’t disappoint, and neither did his teammates.
Now, Jones goes down in the history books.