Scott Fowler

Jones knows he'll have to be fast to make final

Cullen Jones, the former N.C. State star and current Charlotte resident, makes his Olympic debut today.

Jones is scheduled to swim a leg in the preliminaries of the 4x100 relay for the U.S. team. He qualified to do that in July by finishing third in the 100 at the U.S. Trials with a career-best time of 48.35 seconds.

Depending on how he swims this morning in the preliminaries, Jones might also swim in the 4x100 final for the U.S. tonight. U.S. head men's swim coach Eddie Reese said he won't make that decision until he sees how the preliminaries go.

Said Reese: “The way our relays are set up, it looks like of the four morning (preliminary) swimmers, only one or two of those guys are going to move in to the night swim – in some cases, only one. You're going to have to be fast, and everybody knows it.”

The U.S. making the final is almost a foregone conclusion – the only chance the squad wouldn't is if someone jumps off the blocks too soon and gets disqualified.

Whether Jones swims the relay once or twice Sunday, he will receive the same medal as everyone else if the U.S. makes it to the podium.

Reese said Jones had looked very good in the team's practices. The coach also said he expected the U.S. preliminary team to try to set a world record in the morning because all of its members would be trying so hard to qualify for the final.

Jones, 24, has both his mother, Debra Jones, and his personal coach, Charlotte's David Marsh, in Beijing to support him.

Jones barely missed qualifying for a second event in China at the U.S. Trials, finishing third in the 50 freestyle. While the top six finishers in the 100 free made the Olympic team because a relay is contested at that distance, only the top two make it in the 50 – traditionally Jones' best race.