2021-08-13 16:13:50 Great Britain’s First Black Olympic Swimmer Wants Swimming Caps For Black Hair To Be Approved
Great Britain’s First Black Olympic Swimmer Wants Swimming Caps For Black Hair To Be Approved
Alice Dearing, the United Kingdom’s first Black Olympic swimmer, wants the next Games’ organizers to approve swim caps that better accommodate Black hair.
Dearing, one of four Black people who founded the Black Swim Association in the UK to make swimming more accessible to ethnic minorities, told the BBC in 2019 that she understands why Black swimmers would quit because of their hair.
One of the challenges that many Black women face is finding a way to swim while still maintaining the health of their natural hair. Many swim caps are too small to accommodate protective hairstyles like braids and locs.
“It sounds ridiculous, but chlorine wrecks hair and can be really damaging to your self-image and confidence,” Dearing told the BBC, “but it’s even harder for girls with thicker hair, which the majority of Black girls have.”
The International Swimming Federation (FINA) denied Soul Cap’s application for Olympic athletes to wear their swim caps in competitions. Soul Cap makes swim caps designed for Black hair.
The caps are unsuitable, according to FINA, because they do not conform to the “the natural form of the head.” Following widespread coverage and public outpouring of support online, FINA contacted Soul Cap to apologize and offer assistance with their application to compete in international competition, including the upcoming Olympic Games.
Dearing told BuzzFeed News that she is hopeful that the Black swim caps will be approved in the future.
“I’m very excited,” she stated. “I believe this will be approved, moved forward, and used in international competitions. I sincerely hope so. “I know there are a lot of people who want to be on the right side of history with this. So I’m very optimistic that it will have a positive outcome.”
Dearing stated that many organizations need to be educated and that she is grateful that they are listening. “It’s not just being tossed to the side, as it could have been in the past,” she explained.
“I’m not implying that any organization would do this on purpose, but this stuff wouldn’t have been so mainstream, seen, and recognized decades ago.” Dearing said she began swimming at the age of five and began competing at the age of eight after her mother saw an advertisement for a local swimming club.
Dearing and her brother both took swimming lessons, and she described watching competitions as a family activity.
“We would record them and rewatch them, it was like a proper family thing with me, my mother, and one of my brothers,” she explained.
After a few years, Dearing has competed in those events and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Despite finishing 19th, her participation was historic because she was the first Black swimmer for Team Great Britain.
Dearing also cofounded the Black Swimming Association, which seeks to increase and diversify the number of people who swim in the United Kingdom. Dearing stated that she wishes to give back to the sport because it has given her so much in her life.
“I want other people to know that those opportunities are available to them and that they shouldn’t be pigeonholed into something because of their race or because society thinks that’s what they should do,” Dearing said. Dearing has also served as a role model for many.
She described it as surreal and said it was not something she expected to be. “I’m just the girl from Birmingham, just a girl from the Midlands in England,” she explained. “So it’s something a little out of the ordinary.
You never think you’ll be in a position to influence, inspire, or change someone’s life in such a positive way.” Although Dearing is one of the few Black swimmers known internationally, she admits that she was not always the only non-white swimmer in the swimming community.
As she grew older, she began to hear whispers that Black people don’t swim, and people seemed surprised that she did. “We always laughed it off because my mother, who is originally from Ghana, grew up swimming and it was part of her lifestyle,” Dearing explained.
“This isn’t just a joke; it’s actually affecting people’s lives and the decisions they make on a daily basis. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about it.” Dearing stated that, while she is dissatisfied with her Olympic performance, she has received messages of encouragement.
“Everyone else is just like, well done for getting there in the first place, well done for standing up and having these conversations, being a part of something bigger than yourself and advocating for change,” she said.
Dearing is one of 52 athletes selected for Procter & Gamble’s Athletes for Good Fund, which awards $10,000 to local community initiatives.
“It’s been so overwhelming, like so many strangers messaged me, too many for me to respond to,” she explained. “But you know, I can really feel that all of these people are rooting for me and lifting me up.
And it’s a feeling I’ll never forget because it’s so powerful. I’m so grateful that people have taken the time to show their support for me.” Dearing said she didn’t get to see any of the live competitions during the Olympics in the UK, but she is looking forward to the Paris Games because it is so close to home.
“Obviously, I’m just irritated, and I never appreciated London 2012 while it was there, but having a kind of second chance with Paris… I’m really excited for, hopefully, that opportunity to compete as an athlete there as well.”