Swimming caps for afro hair will now be allowed in elite competitions

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  • After being banned from the Olympics in 2021.

    You might remember when, two years ago, swimming caps for afro hair were banned from being worn in competitive swim events such as the Olympics.

    FINA, swimming’s governing body, ruled against allowing the specialist caps to be worn by athletes because, to their “best knowledge, the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.”

    They then continued to label the caps as “unsuitable,” saying they did not “follow.. the natural form of the head.”

    Naturally, many took to social media at the time to express their outrage at the ruling, with several pointing out that it represents yet another barrier for ethnic minorities looking to get into sport. (Just recently, stats from Sport England showed that a quarter of Black children leave primary school not being able to swim, and 95% of Black adults and 80% of Black children don’t go swimming).

    Now, two years on, a new ruling has overturned the initial ruling, and caps specifically designed with afro hair in mind will now be allowed at competitive sporting events, including the Olympics.

    FINA, as part of their diversity and inclusion drive, will be allowing the caps in all areas of sport. Executive Director of FINA Brent Nowicki says on the move: “This announcement follows a period of review and discussion on cap design between FINA and SOUL CAP over the past year.”

    “Promoting diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of FINA’s work. It is very important that all aquatic athletes have access to the appropriate swimwear.”

    Co-founder of SOUL CAP Toks Ahmed said to Metro: ‘This result plays a huge part in our wider mission to improve inclusion in the sport.”

    “We’re so grateful to everyone who showed support and was part of creating this major change. As a new father and someone who didn’t learn to swim growing up, creating access for the next generation feels even more close to home.”

    “We’ve seen what community and collective energy can achieve, so we’re hopeful to keep knocking down more of these barriers.”

    Historically, a lack of appropriate sportswear has been a huge barrier for Black people wanting to get into swimming. The smaller swimming caps that currently retail normally don’t offer enough room for afro hair, often causing damage or not enough protection from things like chlorine. Further, research has shown that your risk of drowning may be higher if you’re from a Black or ethnic minority community.

    SOUL CAP co-founder Michael Chapman explains to Metro: “There’s still huge progress to be made for diversity in aquatics. Some of these other barriers include people being priced out of swimming, the lack of swim education in schools, pool closures and cultural stereotypes such as, “Black people don’t swim”.”.

    A step in the right direction, without doubt. Here’s to more diversity and inclusion within all sport – not just swimming.

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