Great Britain’s first black Olympic swimmer wants to adopt swimming caps for black hair


“I know a lot of people want to be on the right side of history with this. So I am very optimistic that there will be a positive outcome from that.”

Posted August 9, 2021 at 3:35 PM ET

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Alice Deering, the UK’s first black Olympic swimmer, wants upcoming Games organizers to approve swimming caps that best suit black hair.

Dearing is one of four black people who created the UK’s Black Swimming Association, which aims to make swimming easier for ethnic minorities, and He told the BBC In 2019, I understood why black swimmers quit because of their hair.

One barrier many black women face is swimming while keeping their natural hair healthy. Many swim caps are too small for protective styles such as braids and sites.

“It sounds silly, but it can hurt your self-image and your self-confidence because chlorine breaks hair,” Dering told the BBC, but it’s more difficult for girls with thicker hair, which the majority of black girls have.

FINA has rejected a request by Soul Cap, which makes swimming caps designed for black hair, to approve Olympic athletes wearing their caps at competitions. FINA She said Hats are not suitable because they do not follow the “natural shape of the head”.

After extensive coverage and a crowd online, FINA reached out to Soul Cap to apologize and offer assistance to them in their application for approval for international competition, including the upcoming Olympic Games.

Dearing told BuzzFeed News she hopes black swim caps will eventually be approved.

“I’m really excited,” she said. “I think this will probably go on and on and be usable in international competitions. I really hope so.

“I know a lot of people want to be on the right side of history with this. So I am very optimistic that there will be a positive outcome from that.”

Dearing said a lot of organizations need to be educated and she is happy that they are listening.

“It’s not just being thrown aside like in the past,” she said. “I’m not implying that any organization would do this on purpose, but decades ago these things were not prevalent, they would not have been seen and acknowledged.”

Dearing said she learned to swim around the age of five, and took part in competitive swimming at age eight after her mother saw an advertisement for a local swimming club.

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Dearing and her brother took swimming lessons together and said watching competitions was a family activity.

“We’d record it, and rewatch it, like it was a proper family thing with me, my mom and one of my brothers,” she said.

Fast forward a few years, and Dearing herself swam in those competitions and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Although she came 19th, her participation is still historic as the first black swimmer for Team Great Britain.

Dering also co-founded the Black Swimming Association, which aims to encourage and diversify people who swim in the UK. Dearing said she wants to give back to the sport because it has given her so much good in her life.

“I want other people to know that these opportunities are available to them, and not kind of get categorized into something because of their race or because society thinks that’s what they should do,” Deering said.

Dearing also became a role model for many. She said it wasn’t something she thought she could be and she said it was surreal. “It’s kind of like I’m just a Birmingham girl, just a girl from the Midlands of England,” she said. “So it’s kind of a crazy thing. Never think that you’re in this position to help influence or help inspire or change someone’s life in such a positive way.”

Although Dearing is one of the few black swimmers known internationally, she has said that in the swimming community she was not always the only non-white swimmer.

Growing up, she started hearing whispers from people saying that blacks don’t swim and people seemed surprised that she did.

“We always laughed about it because my mum, and my mum is originally from Ghana, grew up swimming and that was part of her lifestyle,” Deering said. “This is not just a joke like this that actually affects people’s lives and affects the choices they make on a daily basis. That is why I am so excited about it.”

Dearing said that although she is not very happy with her Olympic performance, she does receive messages of support.

“Literally everyone else is like, well done getting there in the first place, well done standing up, having these conversations as part of something bigger than you and championing change,” she said.

Dearing is one of the athletes involved in Procter & Gamble’s Athletes for Good Fund, which gives 52 athletes $10,000 for initiatives in their local communities.

“It was so confusing,” she said, “like so many strangers sent me, so many messages that I can’t even reply to them.” “But you know, I can really feel supported and lifted up by all of these people. And it’s a feeling I’ll never forget, honestly, it’s so powerful. I’m so honored that people took so long to support me.”

Dearing said she didn’t get a chance to watch any of the live competitions when the Olympics were in the UK, but she is excited about the Paris Games because it’s so close to her home country.

“Obviously, I’m just kind of upset and never appreciated that London 2012 was there, but I kind of have a second chance with Paris…I’m really excited about that, hopefully a chance to compete as an athlete is there too.”

Clive Rose / Getty Images

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