Decision to ban afro swim caps from competitions to be reviewed

Water sports governing body reassures public that it understands ‘the importance of inclusivity’

Olivia Petter
Tuesday 06 July 2021 11:25 BST
(Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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The decision to not allow swimmers to wear caps designed for afro hair at international swim competitions might be reconsidered after there was a backlash.

Earlier this week, the company Soul Cap, which makes swim caps specifically designed to fit over dreadlocks, weaves, braids, and afros, was told by Fina, the water sports world governing body, that their caps could not be certified for use at competitions, including the Olympics.

The reason was that the caps do not “follow the natural form of the head,” Soul Cap told the BBC.

Following the revelation, young black swimmers expressed their disappointment to the media, with Kejai Terrelonge, 17, telling BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat that this is one of the many hurdles she has faced as a swimmer.

“Using the smaller swimming caps that everyone else would use - it would fit on my head but because I put [protective] oil in my hair, when I was swimming it would just keep sliding off and my hair would get wet,” she said.

The bleach found in swimming pools can lead to damage for those with afro hair because it tends to be drier than other types of hair, hence the importance of good caps.

Alice Dearing, the first black woman set to represent Great Britain at an Olympic swimming event in Tokyo 2020 later this year, is an ambassador for Soul Cap and has previously said that she felt “blessed” to work with a company “which has recognised a serious issue within the black community worldwide” and is “dispelling the myth that swimming equipment cannot be inclusive”.

Now, Fina has confirmed that it is “reviewing the situation” regarding the use of Soul Cap swimming caps at international competitions.

“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,” it said in a statement, adding that it understood “the importance of inclusivity and representation” and is therefore “reviewing the situation”.

Swim England has subsequently released its own statement on swimming hats in which it reassures people the Soul Caps are permitted at domestic competitions in England.

“We fully understand how swimming hats designed for Afro hair can reduce barriers to the sport for under-represented groups, including Black people,” the organisation said.

“We would therefore like to reassure all our members and the wider swimming community that we embrace their use for participation, training and racing.

“These hats are permitted at all Swim England clubs and competitions under our auspices.

“Our chief executive, Jane Nickerson, will raise our concerns regarding the reported international situation, through the appropriate channels.”

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