Olympic athletes will not be able to wear swimming caps for natural hair during games, committee rules

Company says decision could deter young athletes from pursuing the sport

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 02 July 2021 16:12 BST
A Black-owned swimming cap brand created for natural hair has been denied certification for use by athletes at the Olympics
A Black-owned swimming cap brand created for natural hair has been denied certification for use by athletes at the Olympics (Getty Images)
Leer en Español

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


A Black-owned swimming cap brand created for natural hair has been denied certification for use by athletes at the Olympics.

On Wednesday, it was reported by Metro that the federation for international competitions in water sports known as FINA, denied the application submitted by brand Soul Cap to be certified for use in the Olympics.

According to the outlet, FINA explained that the decision was made because to its “best knowledge, the athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration”.

The committee also denied the certification of the caps because they do not fit “the natural form of the head,” Metro reported.

In the 2020 FINA Olympic rulebook, it states that “before any swimwear (this includes swim caps and goggles) which includes a new design, construction or material is used in competition, the manufacturer of such swimwear must submit the swimwear to FINA to obtain its approval”.

On its website, Soul Cap, which was founded in 2017, explains that it was created with people with “thick, curly, and voluminous hair” in mind, with the larger than typical swim caps allowing swimmers more room to fit their hair.

Following FINA’s decision, the company released a statement on Instagram, in which it said that it sees the situation not as a setback, but as a chance to “open up a dialogue to make a bigger difference” in regards to diversity and inclusion in swimming.

“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,” the company’s founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed wrote. “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.”

The founders then acknowledged that there is only so much that grassroots initiatives and small businesses can do, as change also needs to happen at the top.

“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,” they continued, before thanking all those who have supported the company.

On social media, the committee’s denial was met with criticism, with many praising Soul Cap and asking what they can do to help.

“They will soon regret rejecting you... my family will be ordering from you from now on!” one person commented, while another said: “Please let us know how we can help? Can this be appealed? Who do we submit our complaints to?”

While speaking to Insider, Chapman and Ahmed said they hope the committee’s decision, and the backlash that has stemmed from the decision, help highlight the “lack of diversity in aquatics and drives long-term change in sporting rules”.

The Independent has contacted Soul Cap and FINA for comment.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in