Congratulations to Charlotte native and NC State alum, Cullen Jones, who is heading back to the Olympics!
OMAHA, Neb.— Cullen Jones is going to a second straight Olympics after an up-and-down couple of years.
Jason Lezak is headed to London, too, as a 36-year-old father of two.
They were part of a loaded field of Olympic medalists in the 100-meter freestyle final on Friday night at the U.S. swimming trials.
Jones went out strong and hung on from the far outside lane to touch in 48.46, giving the first African-American ever to win an Olympic swimming gold medal a shot at adding to his collection.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I had some definite doubts the last couple years.”
Now 28, Jones swam on the winning 400 freestyle relay in Beijing that set a world record. The victory raised his profile and he parlayed his credibility into a major role with USA Swimming’s Make a Splash campaign that encourages minorities to learn to swim.
“Although a lot of my work is positive in talking to kids, I wanted to live, I wanted to enjoy what I had gotten in 2008,” he said.
So he made the rounds of the celebrity circuit. A fashion fiend outside of the pool, Jones posed for magazine spreads, attended parties and enjoyed the spoils that come from winning a gold medal.
That led to some quiet years since Beijing, with Jones not making the team for last year’s world championships in Shanghai and then missing the championship final of the 50 free at U.S. nationals.
“I refocused this past year,” he said. “A lot of the coaches from the national team who were in Shanghai said to me, ‘We need you for this relay, we need one of the best 100 freestylers in the U.S. to be ready come London because the world is getting faster,’ and I’m happy I could answer that call.”