LONDON, July 2 (Reuters) - Swimming’s world governing body FINA said on Friday it would review whether caps designed for afro and big hairstyles could be worn in its competitions if there was no advantage to be gained from using them.
Media reports had quoted FINA as saying a ‘Soul Cap’ product, designed to fit over dreadlocks, braids and afros, could not be used at the Olympics because it did not fit “the natural form of the head”.
Black swimmers are hugely outnumbered in elite swimming, with the sport seeking to break down a range of socio-economic barriers.
Britain will have a Black female swimmer competing at an Olympics for the first time in Tokyo with Alice Dearing qualifying for the open-water marathon.
Dearing had partnered with Soul Cap to help promote greater diversity, with some young Black women reportedly put off swimming because of hair issues. The brand had criticised FINA’s reaction as discouraging.
“FINA acknowledges the comments and reactions concerning the use of ‘Soul Cap’ swim caps in FINA competition,” the governing body said in a statement, without mentioning the Olympics specifically.
“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.
“FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”
It pointed out there was no restriction on the cap for recreational and teaching purposes and said it would talk to the manufacturer about using the products in FINA Development Centres, which aim to develop the potential of athletes from countries with few achievements in swimming.
“FINA expects to make its consideration of ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill,” it added.
The cap and goggles, and how the water flowing around the head interacts with the swimsuit material and design, are key areas of swmming technology. A baggier cap would likely slow a swimmer down.
Many professional swimmers also wear an inner cap to secure the outer one. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Ken Ferris)