FINA, the international swimming federation, has rejected an application for a UK swimming cap brand to be officially recognised, meaning caps designed to fit over thick hair and afros will not be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics.
Soul Cap produces swimming caps that are specifically designed to fit over afros, dreadlocks, braids and thick, curly hair. The company has said the swimming body rejected its product because it did not fit “the natural form of the head” and that to their “best knowledge the athletes competing at the international events never used, neither require … caps of such size and configuration”.
Soul Cap’s ethos is to design products for all hair types, to make swimming a more inclusive place. The rejection submission sparked outrage, as it came just days after British swimmer Alice Dearing became the country’s first black female swimmer to qualify for the Olympics. She had partnered with Soul Cap prior to qualifying to promote diversity in swimming.
FINA has since released a statement, saying it is reviewing its Soul Cap ban for competition use.
“FINA is committed to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage,” the statement said.
“FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to “Soul Cap” and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”
In a statement on social media, Soul Cap founders Michael and Toks said their products have helped “thousands of swimmers find their love for the water, by giving them the freedom to not have to choose between the sport they love and the hair they love”.
“This is just the start of a much wider and overdue push for change in the world of aquatics – we hope you’re down to ride this wave with us and the swim community,” the founders said.