Trailblazing British Olympian Alice Dearing Announces Retirement From Competitive Swimming

Alice Dearing, who became the first Black woman to swim for Britain at the Olympics three years ago in Tokyo, announced her retirement from the sport on Monday via social media.

Dearing’s decade-long international swimming career spanned three World Championships, two European Championships, and one Olympics, where she placed 19th in the 10km at the Tokyo 2021 edition of the Summer Games. She turns 27 years old on Tuesday.

She has also made waves outside of the water as a co-founder of the Black Swimming Association (BSA) and advocate for the Soul Cap, a covering designed to protect natural Black hair that was approved by World Aquatics in 2022 after being banned for the Tokyo Olympics. The BSA supports learn-to-swim programs that challenge myths around what Black people can do in the water while drawing attention to disproportionate drowning rates in communities of color.

“From the little girl who was too scared to jump in the pool to the woman who stood the shores of lakes and ocean around the world swimming for her country,” Dearing wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “I’ve come a long way and I’m proud of the swimmer I became but even prouder of the woman I am.

“Swimming has provided platforms and opportunities for me I never dreamt possible and as I move into the next phase of my career I’m announcing my retirement from the sport,” she continued. “Now it’s about continuing to give opportunities to more and more people to help them discover their potential, whatever that may be.

“Thank you to all of the people who have raised me up over this journey,” Dearing added. “Too many of you to name. It really has taken a village. It’s been fun. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. But my journey doesn’t stop here.”

Dearing made her British international debut at the 2013 European Junior Championships. She went on to her first senior World Championships in 2015 before winning the 2016 world junior title in the 10km. The Birmingham native also competed at Worlds in 2017 and 2019, barely missing out on Olympic qualification at the latter meet with a 17th-place finish in Korea.

After the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the 2020 Olympics, Dearing clinched her berth in Tokyo just one month before the Summer Games with a 4th-place finish in the 2021 Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier in Setubal, Portugal. In Tokyo, she became the third Black swimmer to represent Britain at the Olympics after Kevin Burns in 1976 and Paul Marshall in 1980.

Dearing took time away from swimming in 2022 before returning last year with the goal of qualifying for the Paris Olympics this summer. She placed 7th in the 1500 free at last year’s British National Championships. The distance specialist last competed at December’s Open Water Swimming World Cup stop in Portugal, where she did not finish the 10km race.

Dearing told Sky Sports that she has been dabbling in the eSports arena and “would love to explore” opportunities there.

“I decided to retire because I didn’t qualify for the Paris Olympics and that was my main goal,” she said. “I wanted to improve on my result from Tokyo. I knew my time was done in the sport. Looking forward to LA (in 2028) felt like a mountain to climb and I knew I didn’t have that in me.”

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Johnson Swim school
1 month ago

Shouldn’t quit swimming.
Why blacks are not known for swimming vinue.

Reply to  Johnson Swim school
1 month ago

She should do what she wants. She has had a great career and knows in her heart it’s time to move on with her life.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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