The world’s governing body for sport, FINA, has approved customized swimming caps for Black hair, NPR reports.
Called the Soul Cap, the protective swimmear accessory will provide better fit and protect thicker, curlier hair from harsh chemicals found in pools, including chlorine. The British-based brand initiated talks with the FINA to approve the caps shortly before the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo but they were rejected. The governing body based its decision on prior competitions where athletes “never used, neither [were required] to use, caps of such size and configuration.” The organization also said at the time that the cap did not follow “the natural form of the head,” as outlined in its requirements for approved swimwear.
Alice Dearing, the only Black swimmer representing the U.K. in marathon swimming during the 2021 Olympics said after the initial decision that “people used to tell me my hair was too big for the cap — never that the cap was too small for my hair.”
After receiving backlash for their decision, FINA released a statement saying that it understood “the importance of inclusivity and representation. 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.”
A recent International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education study revealed that Black children between the ages of five and 14 were twice as likely to drown than their White counterparts due to “systematic exclusion from public pools.” It is part of the reason why Soul Cap was created – to foster diversity in inclusion in the sport of swimming.
“We’re on a mission to make ‘swim for all,’ bringing inclusivity and accessibility to the sport we love,” reads a statement on Soul Cap’s website. “It’s about building confidence in the water, breaking down social barriers, and speaking up for every swimmer and learner who wants to achieve more.”
To learn more about Soul Cap, visit their website here.