• Friday, September 17, 2021
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Sports

Dearing says young black swimmers should not be put off by swim cap ban

Alice Dearing of Great Britain during the women’s 400 individual medley final of Manchester International Swimming Meet 2021. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

By: Sattwik Biswal

ALICE DEARING has urged young black swimmers not to get discouraged from taking part in competitions following a decision to ban specialist swim caps designed to protect natural black hair from being worn at the Olympics.

Dearing, 24, confirmed her place in Team GB last week and will participate in the 10km open water marathon at Tokyo Games, starting later this month. She is also the first black female swimmer to represent Britain at the Olympics.

The specialist headwear are made by the brand Soul Cap, whith whom Dearing had partnered last year. However, for the Tokyo Games, they have been by the International Swimming Federation (FINA), because the caps do not fit “the natural form of the head”, with the body currently reviewing the product.

Dearing is a co-founder of the Black Swimming Association, and she feels this move will put off many young swimmers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

She told Sky Sports News: “The issue with this story is I don’t want little black girls and little black boys to look at elite swimming and think it is not open to them because that is completely the wrong idea.

“It is open to them, I really hope that with it being under review that some agreement will come about, I’m sure it will.

“But I don’t want people to look at elite level swimming and think: ‘It’s not open for me, I can’t wear my hair the way I want to and I’ll go and find another sport’, because that’s not what we want.

“Change is happening at least, Soul Cap has been made and even something as simple as that wasn’t around when I started out swimming.

“My mum used to have to relax my hair and then braid it to make sure it would fit into a cap and make our lives easier and it’s only when I’ve got older that I could find ways to manage it in its natural form.

“It’s brilliant to see so many people passionate about this and wanting to make sure that swimming is open and available to everyone because that is the goal. I’m really hoping to see that this story would have a happy ending and I’m pretty sure it will.

“The issue of black people in swimming is a heavy topic so I’m happy to be the person to speak about it because I want to make people aware that these stereotypes aren’t acceptable and black people should feel comfortable at swimming pools.

“They shouldn’t feel subjugated or discriminated against in any way, so if I can help in any way to make that better and leave the sport one day where I can look back on it and see the difference I’ve made then that’s what I want to do.”

‘No barriers’

In a statement, FINA has told Sky Sports News that it is committed to ensuring there are “no barriers to participation in swimming”.

The statement read: “FINA acknowledges the comments and reactions concerning the use of ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps in FINA competition.

“FINA is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage.

“FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.

“There is no restriction on ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes. FINA appreciates the efforts of ‘Soul Cap’ and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water. FINA will also speak with the manufacturer of the ‘Soul Cap’ about utilising their products through the FINA Development Centres.

“FINA expects to make its consideration of ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill.”

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