The Summer Olympics in Tokyo start on July 23 but the lead-up to the games has not been without controversy, from the anticipated limitation of political protests to the suspension of U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson for testing positive for marijuana.
Was a swim cap designed for Black hair rejected for the Tokyo Olympics?
Yes, a swim cap designed for Black hair was not approved for the Tokyo Olympics. The swimming federation that made the decision said it is “reviewing” the situation.
WHAT WE FOUND
Soul Cap, a British company that was started in 2017, designs swim caps for diverse hair types. According to the company’s website, its founders came up with the idea when they were learning to swim and met a woman “with afro hair who struggled with the size of her swimming cap.”
Soul Cap says it has since sold more than 40,000 of its caps to swimmers around the world.
On June 30, Soul Cap posted on social media that its swimming cap was denied certification to be worn in the Olympics by FINA, the governing body that oversees the international competition of water sports.
After receiving backlash to the decision, FINA released a statement on July 2, saying it is “reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”
Soul Cap said part of the feedback from FINA was that the shape of the swimming cap did not “follow the natural form of the head,” and to FINA’s “best knowledge the athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use caps of such size and configuration.” Soul Cap said there was no mention of competitive advantage or disadvantage in the rejection.
Swimwear worn in the Olympics must comply with FINA standards. Among the rules for swim caps is that the “shape shall follow the natural form of the head.”
Soul Cap said it was disappointed in FINA’s decision for several reasons, including that it may discourage younger athletes from participating in swimming.
Alice Dearing, who is set to be the first Black woman to represent the Great Britain swimming team in the Olympics, is an ambassador for Soul Cap. She told Sky Sports News she’s also worried about the impact FINA’s decision could have on young Black swimmers.
"The issue with this story is I don't want little Black girls and little Black boys to look at elite swimming and think it is not open to them because that is completely the wrong idea,” Dearing said. “It is open to them. I’m really hopeful that it being under review, that some agreement will come about.”
FINA said in its statement that there are no restrictions on Soul Cap swimming caps for recreational and teaching purposes and that it will reach out to the makers of Soul Cap.
“FINA appreciates the efforts of ‘Soul Cap’ and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water,” the Switzerland-based international federation said. “FINA will also speak with the manufacturer of the ‘Soul Cap’ about utilising their products through the FINA Development Centres.”