Swimming Hats Designed For Afro Hair Banned From The Olympics
A swimming cap company that focuses on creating inclusive swimwear has been denied certification for use at the Olympics and other large swimming competitions.
Friends Toks Ahmed and Michael Chapman founded their company SOUL CAP in 2017, after starting swimming lessons and meeting a woman with Afro hair who was struggling with the size of her swimming cap.
The brand has since gone on to provide 40,000 caps to swimmers across the globe, as well as form a partnership with Alice Dearing, the first Black woman set to represent Great Britain in swimming at the Olympics.
SOUL CAP made a bid to be approved for competition swimming, but has been denied from the approval process of the federation for international competitions in water sports (FINA).
The Olympic games and other international competitions have approved some swimming caps of a certain size and specification, but FINA reportedly reached its decision on the grounds that to its ‘best knowledge, the athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use, caps of such size and configuration.’
Ahmed and Chapman have expressed their disappointment at the decision, describing it as a ‘failure to acknowledge the diversity of competitive swimmers.’
Per the Metro, Ahmed commented:
For younger swimmers, feeling included and seeing yourself in a sport at a young age is crucial.
FINA’s recent dismissal could discourage many younger athletes from pursuing the sport as they progress through local, county and national competitive swimming.
How do we achieve participation and representation in the world of competition swimmers, if the governing body stops suitable swimwear being available to those who are underrepresented?
Further justifying its decision, the FINA committee said SOUL CAP’s products were unsuitable due to them not ‘following the natural form of the head’.
Through SOUL CAP, Ahmed and Chapman aim to break down barriers in swimming for people with Black heritage, including racist stereotypes relating to Black people’s ability to swim and the lack of suitable kit for hair, with Chapman explaining the sport ‘never felt like a thing that the people around us were doing when we were kids.’
He continued: ‘When we were growing up, swimming was never really seen as a Black person’s sport. And that meant the kids weren’t chasing it, the parents weren’t encouraging it, and the teachers at school weren’t promoting it.’
The co-founders believe FINA’s rejection comes ‘from lack of thought, without full consideration for diversity and the different requirements non-white athletes may have.’
Ahmed explained they feel there is ‘always room for improvement’, and ‘only so much grassroots and small brands can do’. He added: ‘We need the top to be receptive to positive change.’
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk