Swimming cap designed for natural Black hair types ruled out of Olympic Games

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Photo credit: Clive Rose - Getty Images
Photo credit: Clive Rose - Getty Images

A swimming cap designed for 'diverse hair types' has been rejected by the International Swimming Federation for use at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.

When rejecting the cap, the International Swimming Federation said that the caps did not fit 'the natural form of the head' and to their 'best knowledge the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require … caps of such size and configuration'.

The swimming caps made by Soul Cap, recently partnered with swimmer Alice Dearing, who qualified for the Olympic Games last week and became the first Black woman to represent Team GB at swimming in an Olympic Games.

When posting about Soul Cap, Dearing wrote on her Instagram, 'As people will know I have been vocal about how everyone’s hair is effected by chlorine & have struggled with swim caps being too small to fit my hair in during my whole career. Aligning with this brand seems like a no-brainier to me as we have the shared passion of giving everyone the tools and chance they need to get in the water & feel comfortable doing so.'

Dearing is also co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, who said to Runner's World, 'Just over a week after we celebrated the success of Alice Dearing, becoming the first Black woman to represent Team GB in swimming at the Olympic Games, we are extremely disappointed to learn about FINA’s decision. It’s one we believe will no doubt discourage many younger athletes from ethnic minority backgrounds from pursuing competitive swimming.

'The Soul Cap swim hats – specifically used by people with long, voluminous and Afro hair – were barred by FINA because ‘to the best of their knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use caps of such size and configuration.

'We believe this statement made by FINA confirms what we already know: the lack of diversity in elite swimming and in the higher positions in global aquatics, and the lack of urgency for change.

'We stand with Soul Cap and the other businesses, charities, organisations and individuals who are putting in the work to diversify aquatics. FINA and the global aquatics sector must do better.'

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The Soul Cap founders shared the following comment on their Instagram page: 'We hoped to further our work for diversity in swimming by having our swim caps certified for competition, so swimmers at any level don’t have to choose between the sport they love and their hair.

'For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself in a sport at a young age is crucial. FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county and national competitive swimming.

'We feel there’s always room for improvement, but there’s only so much grassroots and small brands can do – we need the top to be receptive to positive change.

'A huge thanks to all who have supported us and our work so far. We don’t see this as a set back, but a chance to open up a dialogue to make a bigger difference.💧'

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