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Cullen Jones’ first attempt at swimming wasn’t very successful, to say the least. As a 5-year-old growing up in Irvington, New Jersey he nearly drowned during a trip to a water park. Now, Jones is part of history at the Summer Olympics in Beij

Cullen Jones’ first attempt at swimming wasn’t very successful, to say the least. As a 5-year-old growing up in Irvington, New Jersey he nearly drowned during a trip to a water park.

Now, Jones is part of history at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, China becoming only the second African American to win a gold medal in swimming as part of the 4%uFFFD100 meter relay team.

Jones swam the third leg of the gold medal winning team that featured Olympic star Michael Phelps.

Jones said he hopes his success at Beijing helps to get rid of the stereotype that Blacks can’t swim.

“Hopefully, a kid can see this and say, ‘wow, a Black swimmer, and he’s got a medal,” Jones said. “The stigma that Black people don’t swim hopefully ended today.”

Jones set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle preliminaries at the Olympic swimming trails last month. He didn’t qualify for any of the individual events, so his only shot at a medal was with the relay team.

He is hoping his Olympic success helps him in his modeling career. He has also started a foundation devoted to helping minorities learn to swim.

He says Blacks can swim as well as anybody. “Nobody thought Blacks could play golf either until Tiger Woods came along,” he said.

Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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