By Kathy Chouteau
Olympians Nathan Adrian, Elizabeth Beisel, and Cullen Jones took the Richmond Plunge on Monday to help coach local youth swimmers and to raise awareness around the importance of learning to swim.
Their visit to the historic Point Richmond pool was one of three stop-offs for USA Swimming and partner Phillips 66’s Make a Splash Tour.
Adrian, an eight-time Olympic medalist with five gold, one silver and two bronze medals; Beisel, a two-time Olympic medalist with silver and bronze medals; and Jones, a four-time Olympic medalist with two gold and two silver medals, helped instructors with the Richmond Sailfish swim program teach lessons to 12 local kids and to also coach the Sailfish participants, according to John Schonder, head coach of Richmond Swims.
Schonder added that the USA Swimming ambassadors also “took time to talk with the kids about their experience as young swimmers and Olympians” during a visit that was a “once-in-a-lifetime event for the kids that they will always remember.”
Olympian Jones—a survivor of a near-drowning himself—said in a statement he is excited to be back on the road with the Make a Splash Tour and that helping others learn the importance of swim lessons is one of his life missions. “It’s not too late to make the choice today,” he emphasized.
The Make a Splash Tour organizers said that approximately 3,500 people die annually from drowning and that about 25 percent are children under the age of 14. They cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in noting the problem is worse in ethnically-diverse communities, where the drowning rate is almost three times the national average. “Formal swimming lessons can reduce that risk for children by 88 percent,” stated the tour partners.
“We recognize the importance of this critical, life-saving skill and are committed to working with the USA Swimming Foundation to raise awareness around water safety and teach children to swim,” said Claudia Kreisle, Director of Social Impact for Phillips 66.
Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who attended the event at The Plunge, posted on social media that “our kids were inspired to be lifelong swimmers and achievers thanks to Nathan Adrian, Cullen Jones and Elizabeth Beisel.”
Head Coach Schonder said he hopes the Olympians’ recent visit will also “help [the] team’s rebuilding efforts,” relaying that they launched in 2010, with 80-120 swimmers participating each year while they also offer lessons for 25-75 more swim lesson spots. After maintaining “a small group of swimmers that trained at Keller Beach and on Zoom for online workouts” amid the pandemic, Schonder is hoping—now that the team is back at the pool—that they can rebuild to pre-COVID levels by year-end.
In addition to visiting Richmond, the Make a Splash Tour also visited Philadelphia, PA May 9-10 and Borger, TX May 18. Learn more about swim lessons at The Plunge here, Richmond Swims here and USA Swimming here.