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2021 U.S. Olympic Trials - Swimming - Day 8

Source: Tom Pennington / Getty

The Tokyo Olympics have taken yet another hit.

First, it was revealed that spectators would be kept to a minimum due to surging coronavirus cases in Tokyo, and now a new rule has been made that solely affects swimmers of color.

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) rejected an application submitted last year by the British brand Soul Cap –which creates swimming caps specifically for natural Black hair– for its products to be used at the Olympics. Soul Cap says that FINA told them the caps could not be used because they don’t follow “the natural form of the head.”

Athletes have already spoken out after previously being pumped to have a product specifically meant for their hair type– like a 17-year-old Black swimmer for England named Kejai Terrelonge who was “heartbroken but not surprised” when she heard the news.

“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,” Kejai told Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Alice Dearing will be the first Black woman to represent Great Britain in the pool at the Olympics in the coming weeks, and she’s previously been very vocal about understanding why young Black girl swimmers would quit the sport because of their hair.

“It sounds ludicrous, but it can be really damaging to your self-image and confidence as chlorine wrecks hair. But it’s even harder for girls with thicker hair, which the majority of black girls have,” she told the BBC in 2019.

According to a study conducted by JAMA on Black women from ages 21 to 60 years, it turns out that young Black girls aren’t just discouraged from swimming– but other sports as well. Data from the survey shows that 50% percent of African American women have modified their hairstyle to accommodate exercise and nearly 40% avoid exercise at times because of hair-related issues.