A cap designed to protect Black swimmers’ hair has finally received approval to be used in competitive races after it was banned from the Tokyo Olympics last year.
On Friday (September 2), Soul Cap, the extra large swim cap made to hold a variety of Black hairstyles, landed on the list of approved equipment regulated by FINA, swimming’s governing body, per AP News.
“Promoting diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of FINA’s work,” executive director Brent Nowicki said in a statement, “and it is very important that all aquatic athletes have access to the appropriate swimwear.”
The London-based swim cap was designed to be bigger than others on the market to contain dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, braids, thick and curly hair, and other Black hair types.
The approval comes after British swimmer Alice Dearing was barred from wearing a Soul Cap in the 10-kilometer marathon swim in Tokyo last year.
The public outrage that ensued after FINA suggested that the size of the cap could create an advantage for the swimmer led to an apology from the governing body and a pledge to review the decision for future races.
Now, more than a year after Soul Cap was banned from the Olympics, the company said the approval marks a “huge step in the right direction” for swimming, which has historically featured a small pool of Black athletes.
“For a long time, conventional swim caps have been an obstacle for swimmers with thick, curly, or volume-blessed hair,” Soul Cap said in a statement. “They can’t always find a cap that fits their hair type, and that often means that swimmers from some backgrounds end up avoiding competitions, or giving up the sport entirely.
“We’re excited to see the future of a sport that’s becoming more inclusive for the next generation of young swimmers.”
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