This short phrase “the natural form of the head“ has driven the FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation or the International Swimming Federation) into controversy across the swimming community.
The FINA rejected a request by British company Soul Cap that a swimming cap for swimmers whose hair is thick, rounded and curly or of Afro-style be permitted during the forthcoming Olympic Games and other international competitions, reported BBC on Saturday. The federation explained that Soul Cap’s idea did not fit "the natural form of the head,” seemingly judging that the cap for hair styles that are not "natural” may give a competitive edge to those wearing it during games.
Soul Cap released an XL-sized swimming cap designed for swimmers with thick curly hair strands. It has been widely used by black swimmers including Simone Manuel who became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold. African hair is dry due to a thin layer of cells. As Afro swimmers often apply protective oil to their hair, a small-sized swimming cap may slide off easily while they are racing.
British swimming coach Tony Cronin criticized the FINA for its controversial statement that Soul Cap's swimming cap is not natural, explaining that it only demonstrates how misunderstood and ignorant the organization. "There's so many barriers for black swimmers and [FINA have] kind of put another barrier up - defeating the whole purpose of the work that I'm doing,” he said. Kejai Terrelonge, 17, said in a cynical tone that the FINA's decision was a heartbreaking but not surprising result.
With the ongoing controversy seemingly in mind, the FINA wrote, “FINA is currently reviewing the situation with regards to ‘Soul Cap’ and similar products, understanding the importance of inclusivity and representation.”