African-American swimmer Cullen Jones won his first individual Olympic medal, claiming silver with a time of 21.54 seconds in the men’s 50-meter freestyle race at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
Jones won a gold medal as a member of the 4×100 freestyle relay during the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. His performance in that relay made him just the second Black swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal.
He came close to winning the gold in this summer’s 4×100 freestyle relay but had to settle for silver after his teammate, Ryan Lochte, blew the lead Jones provided during the final lap of the race.
But at least the 28-year-old Bronx native has an individual medal to add to his collection.
“I gave 100 percent, so I’m happy,” Jones said. “The time wasn’t too bad and I’m thankful that I got second. I was dreaming of gold and I really wanted to get first, but it wasn’t in the cards this time. I’ll have to work with silver. And that’s enough motivation for another four years, I think.”
Jones initially thought he had won gold, telling reporters that he felt he was leading the entire race. He beat the favorite to win the race, Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo, who hadn’t lost a 50-meter freestyle race in more than four years. But, somehow, he ended up behind French swimmer Florent Manadou, who surprised the bunch by speeding to a gold medal finish.
Fellow African-American swimmer Anthony Ervin, the first Black swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal during the 2000 Games, finished in fifth place.
“I thought I was in the lead,” said Jones. “I really did. I thought I had it. And when I hit the wall I was like, “Ooooh!! Oh…. No.”
“I had dreamed of doing this with you guys,” Jones told a group of reporters. “But in the dream, I had a gold medal around my neck instead of a silver.”