According to the International Swimming Federation (FINA), it is currently “reviewing” its decision against allowing the use of caps for natural Black hair during the Tokyo Olympics this year.
FINA was heavily criticised after Soul Cap, a UK-based company, stated that the governing body of aquatic sports had refused to approve caps for swimmers with thick, curly and voluminous hair in international competitions. Soul Cap explained to the BBC that the caps don’t “follow the natural shape of the head.”
FINA acknowledged widespread condemnation on Friday and stated that it understands “the importance and representation”
A statement was posted to its official website. It stated: “FINA is committed in ensuring that all aquas athletes have access the appropriate swimwear for competition, where this swimwear doesn’t confer a competitive edge.”
It continued, “FINA is currently reviewing our situation in relation to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products. We understand the importance of inclusion and representation.”
The governing body stated that Soul Cap swim caps are allowed for both recreational and educational purposes.
Toks Ahmed Salawudeen and Michael Chapman, founders of Soul Cap, said that their headwear is a key component in encouraging racial diversity and competitive swimming. FINA’s rejection would discourage young athletes from taking up the sport.
Swim England recently revealed that 95% of Black adults in England and 80% of Black children do not swim.
In a statement posted on the official Soul Cap Instagram account, they stated that younger swimmers need to feel included and see themselves in the sport. “The recent dismissal of FINA could discourage many younger swimmers from continuing to swim in competitive swimming, whether they are competing at the local, regional or national level.”
Alice Dearing, who has previously partnered Soul Cap to promote greater diversity within the sport, is now set to be the first Black female swimmer to represent Great Britain in the Olympics. She qualified for the open-water marathon last week.
The Black Swimming Association (BSA), in response to the news of FINA’s rejection, stated that it was “extremely disappointed” and added that it “confirms a lack of diversity within elite swimming and the lack urgency for change.”
FINA stated that it appreciates the efforts of “Soul Cap” and other suppliers to ensure that everyone can enjoy the water and plans to speak with them about how to use their products through FINA Development Centers.
“FINA anticipates that it will consider Soul Cap and similar products as part of larger initiatives to ensure there are no barriers for participation in swimming, which is both an Olympic sport and a vital life skill.