LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - Alice Dearing will be the first Black female swimmer to represent Britain at an Olympics after Team GB confirmed on Friday her place in the 10km open water marathon.
The 24-year-old student earned her ticket to Tokyo after she finished fourth of 47 in a qualifying event held in Portugal last weekend.
“I’m really happy at being the person to break this barrier,” Dearing told reporters after the announcement. “It’s a really exciting moment for myself and for Black history and Black culture.
“At the same time it is such a shame it took as long as 2021 to get to this point.”
Kevin Burns, in 1976, was Britain’s first Black male Olympic swimmer. He was followed by Paul Marshall, who competed in the 1980 Games in Moscow, and Dearing will be only the third Black British swimmer of either sex to reach that level.
“To have a 40-year delay to get a (Black) woman on the team is a bit of a shame but at the same time it’s a barrier that has now been broken and we can really start to take steps to move forward,” said the 2016 world junior champion.
“It has just been decades and decades of historical and cultural racism... I’m really hoping things can start to move forward and people can look at swimming and think it’s not just a sport meant for people of a certain race.
“Black people can swim.”
Hector Pardoe will take the Team GB men’s marathon swim slot after winning the Setubal qualifier.
The Tokyo Olympics are due to start on July 23 and run to Aug. 8. The women’s marathon swim is on Aug. 4 at Odaiba Marine Park. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)