FILE - Simone Manuel of the United States, left, reacts with teammate Katie McLaughlin, right, at the pool during a swimming training session at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Tokyo. A cap designed for Black swimmers’ natural hair that was banned from the Tokyo Olympics has been approved for competitive races. Swimming’s governing body FINA says on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, that the Soul Cap was now on its list of approved equipment. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

FILE - Simone Manuel of the United States, left, reacts with teammate Katie McLaughlin, right, at the pool during a swimming training session at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Tokyo. A cap designed for Black swimmers’ natural hair that was banned from the Tokyo Olympics has been approved for competitive races. Swimming’s governing body FINA says on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, that the Soul Cap was now on its list of approved equipment. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)

Swim cap for Black hair gets race approval after Olympic ban

A cap designed for Black swimmers’ natural hair that was banned from the Tokyo Olympics has been approved for competitive races.

Swimming governing body FINA said on Friday the Soul Cap was on its list of approved equipment.

“Promoting diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of FINA’s work,” executive director Brent Nowicki said in a statement, “and it is very important that all aquatic athletes have access to the appropriate swimwear.”

The London-based Soul Cap brand was designed larger than existing styles to contain and protect dreadlocks, weaves, hair extensions, braids, and thick and curly hair.

Last year, British swimmer Alice Dearing was refused permission to wear a Soul Cap in the 10-kilometer marathon swim in Tokyo, with FINA suggesting the size could create an advantage.

The furor at that decision prompted an apology from the governing body and a promise to review the application.

Soul Cap welcomed the approval that has come more than one year later as “a huge step in the right direction” in a sport that historically has had few Black athletes.

“For a long time, conventional swim caps have been an obstacle for swimmers with thick, curly, or volume-blessed hair,” the company said. “They can’t always find a cap that fits their hair type, and that often means that swimmers from some backgrounds end up avoiding competitions, or giving up the sport entirely.

“We’re excited to see the future of a sport that’s becoming more inclusive for the next generation of young swimmers.”