At the 2010 National Championships, Cullen Jones tied Josh Schneider in the 50 meter freestyle. Last night at the Charlotte Ultraswim, Cullen defeated Schneider in a swim-off to make the 2011 World Championship Team competing in Shanghai in July. Cullen's time: 22.24.
Most swimming insiders know a few important things about Cullen Jones. He's one of the nicest guys and most charismatic speakers among the Olympic stars. He's also one of swimming's biggest assets; an African American Olympic gold medalist in a sport that desperately needs minority participation to grow.
Outside of the pool, Cullen's the guy to hangout with. He's fun. Going to dinner with him, you'll either share a meal with his mother--who is beautiful and gracious--or share a meal with his National Team roommate, Ryan Lochte, now considered Team USA's top overall swimmer.
Everybody loves Cullen. Period. But Cullen makes his fans and friends bite their nails almost every year. Will he perform? Will he make the USA National Team? In Cullen's post race interview in Charlotte, watch Lochte rush in for a celebration hug.
Cullen trains for the sprint freestyle his own way. He takes long periods of time off in the fall, long by most swimmer's standards, then returns to the pool in December.
Josh Schneider, his SwimMAC Teammate (an NCAA Champion in the 50 yard freestyle), returned to training in September of 2010, getting a full four months of base-work under his belt before Cullen got down to business.
Some analysts believe Cullen might be a lock for Olympic hardware--even gold--in London in the 50 meter freestyle if he trained year-round. I confess, I was one of them, but I'm not so sure now. After witnessing Cullen rally year after year, I'm beginning to think Cullen knows his mind and body better than everyone else. Perhaps he needs the physical and mental break to recharge for each new world-class season.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? If Cullen trained year-round, would he be the undisputed best in the US? Would he be a lock for Olympic hardware in London? Or is Cullen doing what he needs to do, taking time off each year, to sustain a long world-class career?
GOLD MEDAL MEDIA (I swam, I swim, and as a swimmer I love swimming)
GOLD MEDAL MEDIA
(I swam, I swim, and as a swimmer I love swimming)
HERE'S a look back at CULLEN JONES' service (in 2010) to MAKE A SPLASH, supporting families and swimmers who can't afford swimming lessons: