New York City Nearly 60 percent of African-American children can't swim, almost twice the figure for white children, according to a first-of-its-kind survey which USA Swimming hopes will strengthen its efforts to lower minority drowning rates and draw more blacks into the sport.
Stark statistics underlie the initiative by the national governing body for swimming. Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate. And less than 2 percent of USA Swimming's nearly 252,000 members who swim competitively year-round are black.
To alter the numbers, USA Swimming is teaming with an array of partners - local governments, corporations, youth and ethnic organizations- to expand learn-to-swim programs nationwide, many of them targeted at inner-city minorities. One of the key participants is black freestyle star Cullen Jones, who hopes to boost his role-model status by winning a medal this summer at the Beijing Olympics.