Making a Splash

by Natalie Davis-Miller

Five-year-old Cullen Jones had always wanted to visit the water park. Now he stood at the top of the waterslide with a big smile on his face.

Cullen’s dad went down first. Then Cullen jumped in a tube.

“Yay!” Cullen’s mom heard him screaming and having fun.

Then the noise stopped. It’s hard to scream when you’re under water.

When Cullen reached the pool at the end of the slide, he flipped into the water. He was drowning. His mother went down the waterslide, but she couldn’t swim either. She got the attention of her husband and a lifeguard, who rescued Cullen.

Instead of being afraid after his near-death experience, Cullen wanted to go on more slides.

“Are you out of your mind?” his mother said.

Good Lessons

The very next week Cullen’s mother put him in swimming classes. At 8 years old, he joined a team. Cullen didn’t always get first place. Sometimes he won a pink ribbon—seventh place. But when he was around 11, he knew swimming was his passion.

Cullen grew up to be 6-feet-5-inches tall. His father was 6-foot-4. He wanted Cullen to play basketball, like he did. Instead Cullen followed his heart and his God-given talent in the pool, and his parents supported him.

Sadly, Cullen’s father died when he was 16 years old. Cullen honors his father by signing autographs with the number 41, his father’s basketball jersey.

Cullen is a strong believer in everything that God has done for him, and continues to do for him.

“When my dad passed, my faith was tested,” Cullen says. “I asked, ‘Why me?’ But my mom told me there is a reason for everything, even if we don’t know why.”

During high school and college, Cullen won many races and began breaking records. He won a gold medal and set a world record in the 4x100 freestyle relay in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, swimming alongside Michael Phelps, Jason Lezak and Garrett Weber-Gale.

Cullen is preparing for the 2012 Olympics, but he also spends time working with kids through USA Swimming’s Make A Splash Tour. He visits schools and pools to talk about the importance of knowing how to swim. Make A Splash wants every child in America to learn how to swim—because it can save a life.

And no one knows that better than Cullen.

Check out more Olympians for Jesus!

This article first appeared in the July 2012 issue of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine. Copyright © 2012 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission. Photo © Nicole Elocin/; used under Creative Commons license.