African American Olympic medalist Cullen Jones broke the American record in a 50-meter freestyle swim-off at the U.S. national championships Saturday night, earning a chance to swim the event at the world championships.
Jones touched in 21.41 seconds, lowering the old mark of 21.76 set by Gary Hall Jr. in 2000.
He edged Garrett Weber-Gale in the one-on-one race for the second spot in the event at worlds later this month. Weber-Gale was clocked in 21.70.
“Swimming needs to do more of it. There’s so much fun, so many people like to watch it,” Jones said. “I don’t know how many times since Thursday people came up to me like, ‘I can’t wait for Saturday. I can’t wait to see that race.’ It’s cool to see that much enthusiasm about swimming.’”
Jones’ time was faster than what Nathan Adrian swam in winning the 50 Thursday night, when Jones and Weber-Gale tied for second. Adrian won in 21.52.
Jones switched to a Speedo LZR for the swim-off, abandoning the Jaked polyurethane suit he had worn earlier in the meet. He has a contract with Nike, but the company has gotten out of the competitive suit business.
“We took a — not a gamble, but something different. I tried the LZR. I’ve always felt comfortable in that since last year,” he said. “Jaked, still, I feel is a really great suit for me. They both fit right, so we’re going to see what we can do at worlds. I try not to put too much faith in the suit. I put faith in the work I do.”
Olympians Jones and Weber-Gale had already qualified for the team in the 400 freestyle relay.