NEW ORLEANS -- Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones is 'making a splash' in New Orleans.

On Thursday, the award-winning athlete visited University of New Orleans Aquatic Center and the Belle Chasse YMCA to teach local children how to swim as part of the USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash tour.

For Jones, swimming is more than just a sport; it's a life skill.

At the age of five, Jones, now 33, said he almost drowned while on a water ride.

After that experience, Jones learned to swim, and now he wants everyone to do the same.

“So many times when we hear about people drowning you think of that theatrical 'help, help' and many times, that’s not what happens. I went underwater and they had to resuscitate me. I was underwater for 30 seconds,” Jones said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people drown every day in the U.S. and the issue of not knowing how to swim is worse for minorities. About 45 percent of Hispanic children cannot swim and for black children, it's 64 percent.

"It’s never too late to learn but it’s a big problem in the U.S.,” Jones said.

With the support of the foundation, Jones said he wants to make sure these kids are not in those percentages.

“When people say I’ll just wear a life jacket, that’s not good enough," Jones said. "It’s starting to get warm outside so it’s important to learn how to swim. It’s a life skill. Once you learn how to swim, you never forget."

For more information on local swimming lessons, here are several area resources:

UNO Aquatic Center


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