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Cullen Jones is a swimmer competing at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for the USA.

Cullen Jones qualified for London by winning the 50m freestyle and finishing second in the 100m freestyle. His 100m freestyle result earned him a spot on the 4x100m freestyle relay team. Jones had a poor showing at the 2011 Worlds — he failed to advance out of the 50m freestyle heats — so it wasn't clear how he would perform at Trials.

Cullen Jones became a household name across the United States during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he was part of Michael Phelps' historic eight-for-eight performance. Jones swam the third leg of the 400m freestyle relay, a race that the American team nearly lost. Phelps and Garrett Weber-Gale gave Jones a slight lead before he dove into the pool for the third leg of the race, but he faded slightly and touched the wall nearly a full length behind the French team. Jason Lezak then swam the fastest 100m freestyle split in history to give the Americans the gold medal.

The victory catapulted Jones' career. Sponsors began lining up to help him and series of clinics and swim meets he organized to spread the sport of swimming to children across the U.S. His foundation is now called "Make a Splash."

Jones' career has continued to sparkle since the Beijing Olympics. The New Jersey native, who now lives and trains under coach David Marsh as SwimMAC Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., won gold with the 400m freestyle relay team at the 2009 Worlds. It was nearly a repeat of what happened in Beijing, as the Americans were forced to come from behind to win in the final leg. Jones stumbled a bit in 2010 and placed fifth in the 50m butterfly and sixth in the 50m freestyle at the Pan-Pacific Championships.

Jones' spot on the U.S. team for the 2011 Worlds was not decided at the 2010 Pan-Pacs as was the norm. He tied with training partner Josh Schneider in the 50m freestyle at the 2010 U.S. Championships, and then Schneider suffered a hand injury. The latter appealed to USA Swimming for the pair to stage a swim-off to decide who would make the Worlds team. So at the 2011 Charlotte UltraSwim, the two went head-to-head in the most talked-about race at the meet. There was also some bad blood brewing between the two; they were kept away from each other during practices leading up to the showdown. Ultimately it was Jones who won the swim-off and the Worlds berth, but Schneider got revenge by winning the regularly scheduled 50m freestyle at the meet.

After a successful career at North Carolina State, Jones emerged as one of the world's best sprinters. Jones finished second in the 50m freestyle at the 2007 World Championships and won gold as part of the 4x100m free relay. In Beijing he became the second African-American Olympic gold medalist; Anthony Ervin won the 50m free (in a tie with Gary Hall Jr.) in 2000.

Jones became the first African-American swimmer to hold a long course world record when the U.S. team won the 4x100m free relay at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships in Victoria, Canada. Swimming alongside Michael Phelps, Neil Walker and Jason Lezak, Jones helped break the record set by South Africa in Athens. Jones says he will never forget how he felt when the announcer said, "The U.S. is now under world record pace." But he doesn't have pictures to remind him — he was so exhausted after his leg that he fell over. So while Phelps and Walker were cheering Lezak home, Jones was on the ground "seeing colors."

When Jones was five years old, his parents took him to a water park. Before he went down a big slide on an inner tube, his dad made him promise not to let go of the tube, no matter what. When he got to the bottom, the tube flipped over, leaving him trapped underwater but clinging to the tube. Jones actually lost consciousness before his father spotted him and pulled him out of the water. Lifeguards performed CPR, and Jones coughed up a pint of water before taking his first breath. But Jones had no idea at the time that his life had been in danger — he immediately asked his parents what the next ride was.

Jones' father, Ron, was an avid basketball player and talented center, and he tried hard to persuade Cullen to take up the sport. He finally agreed but said he wouldn't be a center and tried point guard instead. But after a few years, he decided he didn't want to play basketball and focused on swimming. Even though Jones said it broke his father's heart, he was always supportive and came to all him meets. And he never gave up the desire to see his son play basketball.

Ron Jones was diagnosed with lung cancer when Cullen was 16. Ron assured his family that he would be all right, but Cullen noticed a change in him the day they found out. Ron took Cullen to every practice — took him practically everywhere he needed to go — and tried to make sure that Cullen and his mother would be OK when he was gone. Ron died only a few months later, in 2000, and Cullen now signs his autograph with the number 41, his father's jersey number. He also has a tattoo on his back with the sun, representing his father's strength, with "Jones 41" inside like a jersey, over a cross, representing his faith.

It wasn't until Jones signed a contract with Nike in 2006 that he began to accept the responsibility of being a role model for the black community. Jones says until that point, he hadn't paid attention to it and had focused on himself and his goals. But now, he says, he feels comfortable speaking out, encouraging more African-Americans to learn to swim, not necessarily to become Olympic athletes but to be safe. The fact that African-Americans are three times more likely to drown than any other race is a statistic that Jones wants to change.

Working toward that goal, Jones holds clinics to teach children how to swim, which combines the two things he loves: swimming and teaching. Jones uses a unique teaching tool, when he talks about how he almost drowned as a kid. Most of the children, who call Jones "Aquaman," can't believe it, but Jones thinks it's an effective way to show that it can happen to anyone.

Jones' musical taste is varied, combining hip-hop with rock. Jones calls New Jersey a "melting pot" where he was exposed to both Jay-Z and Linkin Park. When the two made an album together, Jones said, "It defined me so much to see the hip-hop standpoint merge with the rock standpoint." Also listed among Jones' favorites are T.I. and Metallica.


How tall is Cullen Jones? How old is Cullen Jones? Where does Cullen Jones live? Find out here.

Age: 32 years old
Birthday: February 29, 1984
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 209 lbs.
Birthplace: New York, NY
Hometown: Irvington, NJ
Current Residence: Charlotte, NC

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