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

  • Marie Claire gets the nod from its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a commission on some of the items you choose to purchase.

  • After being banned from the 2021 Olympics.

    You may remember when, two years ago, swimming caps were banned for afro hair in competitive swimming events like the Olympics.

    FINA, swimming’s governing body, disclosed allowing specialist caps to be worn by athletes because, to the best of their knowledge, athletes competing at international events have never used, nor need to use, caps of such size and configuration.

    They then went on to label the caps as “inappropriate” and said they did not “follow… the natural shape 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 another barrier to ethnic minorities wanting to take up the sport. (Very recently Sport England statistics showed that a quarter of black children leave primary school unable to swim, and 95% of black adults and 80% of black children do not go swimming).

    Now, two years later, a new ruling has overturned the original 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 efforts, will allow caps in all sports. FINA Executive Director Brent Nowicki said on the road: “This announcement follows a period of review and discussion on cap design between FINA and SOUL CAP over the past year.”

    “Promoting diversity and inclusion is at the core of FINA’s work. It is very important that all water sports enthusiasts have access to suitable swimwear.”

    Co-founder of SOUL CAP Toks Ahmed told Metro: “This result plays a major role in our wider mission to improve inclusion in sport.”

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

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

    Historically, the lack of suitable sportswear has been a major obstacle for black people wanting to take up swimming. The smaller swim caps that retailers currently sell typically don’t offer enough space for afro hair, which often causes damage or not enough protection from things like claws. Furthermore, research has shown that your risk of drowning may be higher if you are from a black or minority ethnic community.

    SOUL CAP co-founder Michael Chapman explains to Metro: “There is still great progress to be made for diversity in water sports. Some of these other barriers include people being priced out of swimming, the lack of swimming lessons in schools, closed pools and cultural stereotypes such as “black people don’t swim”.

    A step in the right direction, no doubt. Here’s to more diversity and inclusion within All sports – not just swimming.

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