In Reversal, Cap for Black Swimmers Is Approved

FINA says the Soul Cap is OK after all
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 7, 2021 8:14 AM CDT
Updated Sep 2, 2022 1:52 PM CDT
Banned at Olympics, Caps for Black Swimmers Get One OK
Alice Dearing wears the Soul Cap.   (YouTube/Soul Cap)

Update: It's a victory for Black swimmers. FINA, aka the International Swimming Federation, has reversed its decision and now says a swimming cap designed specifically for natural Black hair can be worn at the Olympics and other top-level competitions, reports the BBC. The sport's governing body previously declared that the Soul Cap did not follow "the natural form of the head," triggering widespread criticism. Our story from last summer on the controversy follows:

The International Swimming Federation says it's reviewing its decision to ban from competition a swimming cap designed to accommodate natural Black hair after critics claimed the move was another barrier to minority ethnic athletes. FINA initially said it wasn't aware of any need for the Soul Cap—which does not "follow the natural form of the head," as required in its rules for swimwear—at international competitions, including the Olympics. "Understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation," it now says it will review that stance. "FINA appreciates the efforts of 'Soul Cap' and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water" and is "committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage," reads a Friday statement, per NPR.

Alice Dearing, the first female Black swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympics in Tokyo and a Soul Cap ambassador, predicts "a happy ending," per Sky Sports. "I don't want little Black girls and little Black boys to look at elite swimming and think it is not open to them" but "I really hope that with it being under review that some agreement will come about," says the Black Swimming Association co-founder. It's unclear if FINA will rule before Dearing competes in the 10-kilometer open water marathon in Tokyo. The body said it would speak with Soul Cap's manufacturer about using the caps at its development centers. It noted the caps are allowed in recreational and teaching environments. Noting the caps "can reduce barriers to the sport for under-represented groups, including Black people," Swim England is allowing them at domestic competitions, per the Independent. (More swimming stories.)

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