Le-Asia Johnson shot a terrified look at her mother as she was picked up and carried into the swimming pool water. The 3-year-old listened as her swimming instructor — Olympic gold medalist Cullen Jones — told her to spread out like a starfish and float in the water.
“Big breath,” he encouraged her. “Big breath. No laughing.”
Of course, that made Le-Asia laugh. He propped up her shoulders, backed off a bit and let her drift. Her mother clapped from the sidelines. Jones carried her back to the edge and sat her down. Le-Asia flashed the thumbs-up.
Le-Asia and eight other children had the chance to learn how to swim from Jones — one of the fastest swimmers in the world.
Jones gave a lesson Tuesday at Oklahoma City Community College as part of a nationwide tour to encourage children to learn to swim and community leaders to give children the chance.
He's working on behalf of Make a Splash, an anti-
When Jones sees scared little faces at the water's edge, he sees himself.
“It's rewarding and it's very humbling,” said Jones, a world record holder in the 4x100 freestyle relay. “I remember I was that kid that was afraid. ... I see myself in all these kids.”
Trauma to triumph
AT A GLANCE
• Teach children to swim.
• Make kids swim with a buddy.
• Teach caution. All bodies of water can be dangerous for children. Also make sure children obey pool rules and never throw others into the water.
• Fence off water features. The pool should be completely fenced off from the home and play area to keep unsupervised children away from danger.
• Require life jackets. Children should wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water even if they know how to swim.
• Learn CPR. Get recertified every two years. CPR can help a child stay alive with little or no brain damage.
• Always provide supervision. Young children should always be supervised around bathtubs, swimming pools and natural bodies of water. Avoid distractions like reading or talking on the phone.
BY THE NUMBERS
• 3,400: Number of people who drown in the United States each year.
• 60-70: Percent of black and Hispanic children who don't know how to swim.
• 3: Times more likely a black child is to drown than a white child.
• 13: Percent of children from non-swimming households who will learn how to swim.