The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has announced that it is reviewing its recent decision not to certify hats manufactured by the company SoulCap specifically designed for black swimmers. Non-certification prevents the item from being used in international competitions such as the Tokyo Olympics.
“FINA is committed to ensuring that all water sports athletes have access to swimwear appropriate for competition, to ensure that these items do not constitute a competitive advantage,” the federation said in a statement.
Soul Cap produces swimming caps that protect dreadlocks, afros, wefts, hair extensions, braids and thick, frizzy hair. Black people’s hair tends to dry naturally, and the chlorine used in swimming pools can dry it out even more, damaging it. The cap was developed with these characteristics in mind.
One young swimmer said she was “heartbroken but not surprised” by the decision. Kejai Terrelong, 17, told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat that taking care of her hair as a black swimmer is one of many obstacles.
“I wore the shortest bonnet that everyone else wears—it fits my head, but how did I apply oil? [protetor] In my hair, when I was swimming, it slipped, and my hair got wet,” Kezai said.
Caps can ‘reduce obstacles’
In England, Swim England, the national body dedicated to swimming, issued a statement to “reassure the public” that the solemn cap is allowed in domestic competitions. Swim England said it would take its “concerns” about FINA’s rejection “through the appropriate channels”.
“Swimming caps designed for Afro hair can reduce barriers to sport for underrepresented groups of blacks,” the organization says.
According to a January 2020 Sport England report, around 29.3% of white children in England practice swimming, compared to 21.9% among Asian children and 20.1% among black children.
SoulCap founders Michael Chapman and Tok Ahmed-Salavuddin said they were grateful for the support they received after FINA rejected the caps they produced.
He says he grew up not knowing how to swim because he didn’t think it was “a sport for us”. “It was not a common thing among our friends and was not encouraged by the school or the parents.”
In 2017, they decided to take classes together – where they met a black woman who complained about the size of her swimming cap. “Talking to our moms, sisters, friends and seeing the lack of suitable swimsuits for swimmers with afro hair, braids, dreadlocks or any kind of hair, we decided to make our own,” she explained. Told.
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