FINA Rejects Soul Cap For International Competition, Drawing Criticism

A Black-owned swim cap company says FINA would not approve its caps for international competition, saying the cap does not “follow the natural form of the head.”

Soul Cap is a United Kingdom-based brand of swim caps focused on extra-large caps for swimmers with “thick, curly, and voluminous hair.” The company hoped to gain FINA approval to allow the cap to be used in international competitions like the Olympics. But Soul Cap says FINA, the international governing body for aquatic sports, would not consider the cap for approval.

According to Soul Cap, FINA’s rejection said that “athletes competing at the International events never used, neither require to use caps of such size and configuration,” and that the shape of the cap does not “follow the natural form of the head.”

The decision has drawn heavy criticism from observers, who say the caps are an important step to promoting racial diversity in a sport that has struggled in that area.

Maritza Correia became the first Black American swimmer to set a world record in the year 2000. Correia, also known by her married name Maritza McClendon, said FINA’s decision showed that the sport still has a structural problem giving underrepresented groups a voice in decision-making.

“This is yet another prime example of systemic racism,” McClendon said. “The reason for rejecting is not a technical reason or a timing issue, but subjective, and that’s not right.

“There’s a bigger conversation that needs to be had, and representation needs to be at the table.”

“To make this sport more inclusive is important on a global level,” she said. “We need to recognize and celebrate when solutions are brought forth that meet the needs of underrepresented populations. We need to work together for a more inclusive sport, not continue to be part of the problem.”

“We believe that it confirms a lack of diversity in the sport,” Black Swimming Association founder Danielle Obe told The Guardian this week, saying hair and swim caps can be significant barriers to Black swimmers connecting with the sport.

“If the (official swimming bodies) are talking about representation, they need to speak to the communities to find out what the barriers are that are preventing us from engaging. Hair is a significant issue for our community.”

FINA released a statement today acknowledging the criticism and saying it was “reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products.” FINA also says the caps are not restricted for “recreational or teaching purposes,” but only in international-level competition.

FINA acknowledges the comments and reactions concerning the use of “Soul Cap” swim caps in FINA competition.

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.

There is no restriction on “Soul Cap” swim caps for recreational and teaching purposes. FINA appreciates the efforts of “Soul Cap” and other suppliers to ensure everyone has the chance to enjoy the water. FINA will also speak with the manufacturer of the “Soul Cap” about utilising their products through the FINA Development Centres.

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.

Soul Cap says FINA’s rejection feedback made no mention of competitive advantage. We’ve followed up with the company to confirm when the caps were rejected and will update this story when we have more information.

The founders of the swim cap company posted a statement to social media, emphasizing their goal of promoting diversity in the sport, and making sure “swimmers at any level don’t have to choose between the sport they love and their hair.”

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1 year ago

Anytime a story has to do with black people, this comment section is a dumpster fire. No wonder we have a hard time getting black swimmers to join this sport.

Swim Mom
1 year ago

I also think FINA should protect swimmers from a competitive disadvantage and clearly thus cap would provide a disadvantage.

1 year ago

They are scared silly by SIMONE and this is a last ditch effort to disadvantage her!

MariposaDRFoundation Volunteer
1 year ago

I’ve spent the past 9 summers volunteering in the Dominican Republic, teaching Dominican and Haitian girls, ages 6-12, how to swim. Finding suitable swim caps for them has been nearly impossible. Their tight curls act like springs, popping the caps off their heads. Even short-haired girls have this issue. Girls with long hair, braids, and beads usually rip the caps before they are even on. Latex, silicon, and Lycra/polyester caps have all failed these girls. “Long haired caps” have worked a little better, staying on longer, but are not the most comfortable for the kids.

If our goal is to promote the sport and increase its reach into new and diverse communities around the world, we must do more to… Read more »

Corn Pop
Reply to  MariposaDRFoundation Volunteer
1 year ago

You can buy for sure some of these caps .If your girls become competitive then cornrows will flatten any hair & last for weeks. Im sure Sarah could have Viking 3′ braids, or Freya Anderson could sport a Game of Thrones style & pile hers up & be 7 ‘. Its ethnic heritage also but they cut it & wear a cap.

Last edited 1 year ago by Corn Pop
Reply to  MariposaDRFoundation Volunteer
1 year ago

But they can wear the caps. Your swimmers in the DR are unaffected by this rule. You just made a long rant about a rule that doesn’t have any affect on you or your athletes. Tell them about the cap and they can buy it.

1 year ago

Is double capping banned? I see lots of elite swimmers wearing two caps, with the outer seeming more like a helmet that smooths out the everything contained within, eliminating wrinkling typical of traditional caps, and providing an obvious performance benefit. I suspect there is added buoyancy as well.

But I guess that’s ok.

1 year ago

The company should only hope that there’s no overturning of the ban. If the cap were allowed, no one would wear it, and no one would hear from the company again.

Also, if the claim is that it was banned due to racism, why has the company decided to only market the “Soul Cap” to minorities?

White women can have a lot of hair too, and as has been mentioned, this is a solution searching for a problem (that was put perfectly by the way).

1 year ago

Yea it’s goofy but fina gonna fina

1 year ago

Have a daughter with voluminous curly hair who was always having the cap fall off or split during races. Sorry she didn’t have this cap when she competed!

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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