Olympics ban afro swimming cap deemed against rules to leave many “heartbroken”

Olympic authorities have banned a swimming cap designed to protest afro hair, leaving many athletes “heartbroken”.

The Games kick off in Tokyo on 23 July, with aquatic events forming a huge part of the schedule.

With participants travelling from around the world to represent their country, some will be sporting haircuts including dreadlocks.

They were hoping to use a product from Soul Cap, who make a protector for this hairstyle as well as afros, weaves, hair extensions and braids as well as third and curly hair.

But FINA, the international governing body recognised by the Olympics, has rejected their application to accept the hair covers.

The organisation argued that the caps were not suitable for competitive swimming events because they do not follow the ‘natural form of the head’.

Soul Cap had partnered with Alice Dearing, who qualified last month to become the first black woman to represent Great Britain at the Olympics.

And the Black Swimming Association, which the 24-year-old co-founded, said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

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They said: "Just over a week after we celebrated the success of Alice Dearing, becoming the first black woman to represent Team GB in swimming at the Olympic Games, we are extremely disappointed to learn about FINA's decision.

"It's one we believe will no doubt discourage many younger athletes from ethnic minority backgrounds from pursuing competitive swimming.

"We believe this statement made by FINA confirms what we already know: the lack of diversity in elite swimming and in the higher positions in global aquatics and the lack of urgency for change.

"We stand with Soul Cap and the other businesses, charities, organisations and individuals who are putting in the work to diversify aquatics. FINA and the global aquatics sector must do better."

While a 17-year-old swimmer told BBC Radio 1 that she was “heartbroken but not surprised” by the decision.

Kejai Terrelonge said: “Using the smaller swimming caps that everyone else would use – it would fit on my head but because I put [protective] oil in my hair, when I was swimming it would just keep sliding off and my hair would get wet.”

Soul Cap released a statement on their Twitter channel following the news saying they did not see it as a “setback” but a “chance to open up a dialogue to make a bigger difference in aquatics”.

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