Swimming cap for afro hair approved after it was banned at Tokyo Olympics

·2-min read

A ban on swimming caps designed to protect natural black hair has been lifted by the International Swimming Federation (FINA).

The specialist headwear, which was created by a black-owned UK brand, was banned from the Tokyo Olympics last year, with the water sport's governing body stating at the time that it did not fit "the natural form of the head".

That decision was criticised by the Black Swimming Association (BSA) and Soul Cap, which designed and created the swim caps.

On Thursday, FINA approved the use of the swim caps, a move Soul Cap described as a "huge step in the right direction".

"Bringing inclusive swimwear into competitive swimming, and helping to bring down some of the obstacles that are keeping swimmers away from the sport," Soul Cap said.

"But it's not just about the Olympics and other high-profile events: It's a decision that affects competitive swimming at every level - from triathlons and marathon swims, right down to the grassroots organisations that develop and train the next generation of elite athletes."

FINA's executive director Brent Nowicki told Sky News: "I am delighted that this swim cap has joined FINA's approved swimwear list. This announcement follows a period of review and discussion on cap design close between FINA and Soul Cap over the past year.

"Promoting diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of FINA's work, and it is very important that all aquatic athletes have access to the appropriate swimwear."

Last year's Olympic ban drew criticism from the swimming community and FINA issued an apology for their rejection and asked Soul Cap to re-apply, the company added.

The BSA added that it "couldn't be happier" that the headwear has been approved by FINA.

Recent figures from Sport England show that 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England do not swim at all, and only 1% of registered swimmers with the governing body identify as black or mixed race.

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Soul Cap, which was founded in 2017, had previously said the ban could "discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport".

"We feel there's always room for improvement, but there's only so much grassroots and small brands can do - we need the top to be receptive to positive change," Soul Cap said.

The company has partnered with Alice Dearing, who was the first-ever black female swimmer to represent Team GB at Tokyo and is also the co-founder of the BSA.