Olympians come to Memphis to help people learn to swim

Olympians aim to change swimming statistics

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A group of gold medal Olympians visited Memphis hoping to help people learn to swim.

According to one study, one in eight of Memphis’ African-American population cannot swim.

"We're here to say, 'Hey Memphis, let's learn to swim,'" USA Swimming Foundation Executive Director Debbie Hesse said.

With pool season in full swing, the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis have teamed up to study the number of people who cannot swim in the U.S. It’s the third time in a decade they’ve partnered in the study.

“What we found is 64 percent of African Americans have little to no swimming ability,” Hesse said. “45 percent of all Latinos have little to no swimming ability, and 40 percent of Caucasians.”

Cullen Jones is the only African-American who has ever held a swimming record.

“When I saw that number, that 70 percent crushed me,” Jones said.

The two-time gold medal winner joined fellow Olympians Elizabeth Beisel and Rowdy Gaines at Hickory Hill Community Center as part of the USA Swimming Foundation's Make a Splash Tour.

That study also found 79 percent of African-Americans in Memphis cannot swim.

“79 percent is an extremely high number, especially when you drive by our pool and you see so many kids you really wonder how many of them do know how to swim,” said Ken Moody, assistant to Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

Moody admitted that he himself does not know how to swim.

"I've been challenged to learn how to swim, and I've accepted that challenge," Moody said.

Moody left the event with a towel and googles, looking forward to what's next.

If you’re interested in joining one of these lessons, click here.

Copyright 2019 WMC. All rights reserved.