Based on the success Cullen Jones has displayed in swimming, one would find it hard to believe he almost drowned at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown, Penn., when he was 5 years old. But, Jones turned the horrific event into a positive. He learned how to swim, and 20-plus years later, he became a gold-medal winning swimming champion in the 50-meter freestyle at the Beijing summer games in 2008.
Jones, 28, the second African American in history to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming (400-meter freestyle with Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak, and Garrett Weber-Gale), places his faith, courage, and hard work in a children’s book titled “Speed to Glory: The Cullen Jones Story” (Zonderkidz; $6.99), currently in bookstores.
In the 2012 London Olympics, the North Carolina State University alum was part of the 400-meter relay team with Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Nathan Adrian team that won silver on July 29. Jones won the silver medal in the 50-meter freestyle event on Aug. 3.
Written by Natalie Davis Miller, the book is truly inspirational. Whether it is swimming or in life, Jones wants readers to understand that commitment and trusting in God goes a long way.
Miller said Jones, who lists Proverbs as his favorite book, attended church as a teen with his father and mother, the late Ronald Jones and Debra Jones. Although he is unable to attend church on a regular basis, Cullen Jones still devotes time in his schedule.
“I call on religion in every aspect of my life, whether I’m at the Olympic Games representing the USA or about to get on a plane to an event,” Jones said.
In the chapter “Finding Faith,” Miller said Cullen Jones keeps faith at the core of his daily life.
Jones also addresses the stereotypes about African American swimmers which exist. In chapter 12, “Make a Splash with Cullen Jones,” Miller describes how Jones came to create his swimming initiative, Make a Splash With Cullen Jones.
In August 2010, Jones was taken aback by the drowning of six African American children in the Red River in Shreveport, La. This event prompted the gifted swimmer to partner with the USA Swimming Foundation and ConocoPhillips to help minorities across the country learn how to swim. In addition, Jones provides free to low-cost swimming lessons to children.
“Speed to Glory” is a simple read with a strong message: honor the steps His has provided to you, work hard, and always give back to others.
Tonya Whitaker who lives in Plano, Texas, is a former newspaper journalist and copy editor. She is now the managing editor of Inside The Pew (www.insidethepew.net), a nonprofit online magazine. Follow Tonya on Twitter @twhitaker1974 and @pewtalk.