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FINA, the International Olympic Committee (IOC)-recognised federation responsible for administering international aquatic sports competitions, has apologised after rejecting a proposal for Afro hair swimming caps.
Last month, SOUL CAP founders Michael Chapman and Toks Ahmed received a rejection from FINA regarding their application for their range of Afro hair caps to be worn at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
In the rejection, Chapman and Ahmed were informed that Olympic athletes had no need for ‘caps of such size’, which FINA said did not follow ‘the natural form of the head’.
This is despite SOUL CAP being worn by competitive Black swimmers all over the world, with Chapman and Ahmed having previously partnered with a number of foundations to improve access to aquatic sports.
Speaking with Vogue at the time, Ahmed said:
We had done a lot of research on the approval process and had thoroughly looked at all the criteria and requirements.
Our cap is the same shape as standard swim caps. It’s just simply larger to accommodate long, voluminous, or textured hair.
Following widespread backlash over their decision, FINA issued a statement expressing its commitment ‘to ensuring that all aquatics athletes have access to appropriate swimwear for competition where this swimwear does not confer a competitive advantage’.
The statement continued:
FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.
Now, following talks between FINA executive director Brent Nowicki and Ahmed, FINA has pledged that processes for all future applications will be reviewed.
Nowicki has reportedly apologised for the rejection, promising that they will receive ‘full support’ if SOUL CAP were to make another application for the next submission window in September.
As per Metro, Ahmed said:
We appreciate the time and effort FINA has spent in reaching out to us. After an open and productive discussion – where FINA shared with us some of their ongoing investments and drives towards diversity and inclusion – we’ll be happy to take up their offer of support when we reapply in September.
FINA has also shared its Development Program Report, outlining a $25.5 million (£18.7 million) investment into ensuring swimming is a more accessible, inclusive sport throughout its 209 national member federations.
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