Culture

Swimming Caps for Natural Black Hair Banned From the Olympics

Black swimmers are disappointed and heartbroken by the decision.

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Swimming Caps for Natural Black Hair Banned From the Olympics

Black swimmers are disappointed and heartbroken by the decision.

Swimming caps designed for natural Afro and textured hair by Black-owned brand Soul Cap, which previously collaborated with British swimmer Alice Dearing, will not be allowed at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) stated that the label did not fit “the natural form of the head” and claimed that “the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require … caps of such size and configuration,” as per The Guardian. Danielle Obe, co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (BSA), expressed her disapproval of the deep-rooted systemic and institutional inequalities surrounding competitive swimming. “We believe that it confirms a lack of diversity in [the sport]. Aquatic swimming must do better,” she told The Guardian.

The original Speedo 50 swimming cap was designed to cater to Caucasian hair but not Afro hair. “We need the space and the volume which products like the Soul Caps allow for. Inclusivity is realizing that no one head shape is ‘normal,’” Obe added. Swimming caps designed for Afro hair are challenging to find, which causes members of the Black and minority ethnic (BAME) community to feel more excluded from society. “If I walked into my local health club, gym or leisure center, could I readily pick up one of these [swim caps for Afro hair]? No,” continued Obe.

According to the sport’s governing body Swim England, just two percent of regular swimmers are Black, where 95 percent of Black adults and 80 percent of Black children in the UK do not swim. As a result, Obe believes that the lack of resources for the BAME community hinders them from learning the sport. “If the [official swimming federations] are talking about representation, they need to speak to the communities to find out what the barriers are that are preventing us from engaging. Hair is a significant issue for our community.”

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The Guardian
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