Dearing, who brought swimming diversity debate, loses race

Aug 3, 2021, 7:12 AM | Updated: 8:58 pm

TOKYO (AP) — Coming into the Olympics, Alice Dearing made a huge impact in the debate over ways to make swimming a more diverse sport.

She had hoped to further her efforts with a strong performance in Tokyo Bay, but it wasn’t to be.

The first Black female swimmer to make the British team struggled to a 19th-place finish in the 10-kilometer marathon swimming event Wednesday morning.

The blistering pace by the world’s best open water swimmers caught Dearing off guard, leaving her more than 5 1/2 minutes behind winner Ana Marcela Cunha of Brazil and in tears when it was over.

“I have a lot more to give than that,” the 24-year-old said, having beaten only six swimmers in the field.

Dearing has already given a lot to the sport by claiming a historic place on the British team and throwing her support behind the “Soul Cap,” an oversized head covering designed for natural Black hair.

World governing body FINA rejected an application to have the Soul Cap approved for the Tokyo Games, but has said it will consider changing that position after further study.

“I just want people to know that no matter your race or background, if you don’t know how to swim, get in and learn to swim,” Dearing said. “Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not for you.”

Despite efforts to increase diversity, swimming remains a largely white sport. The issue has taken on particular importance in the United States, the world’s foremost swimming powerhouse, since protests broke out around the country last summer over the death of George Floyd and other acts of police brutality.

A group of current and former Black swimmers, including gold medalists Cullen Jones and Simone Manuel, have joined with USA Swimming to form Team BLAC, the Black Leadership in Aquatics Coalition.

The group wants to continue efforts to ensure more people of color learn to swim but, more important, provide support to Black swimmers moving up through the ranks, to make sure they don’t feel like outsiders.

The debate over the Soul Cap only heightened the importance of ensuring that everything from the rulebook to grassroots efforts are mindful of those beyond swimming’s traditional base.

Many thought FINA was out of touch when one of the reasons it gave for barring the Soul Cap was because the rubberized covering didn’t follow “the natural form of the head.”

Tell that to Dearing, who wanted to wear the oversized cap to cover her curly and voluminous hair.

“It’s a shame about what happened, but I think the right steps are being made by FINA and the Soul Cap,” Dearing said. “I’m very optimistic that it will be a better news story the next time.”

___

Paul Newberry is an Atlanta-based national writer and sports columnist covering his 14th Olympics. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and his work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry

___

More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Leeds United's Weston McKennie, right, and Manchester United's Lisandro Martinez battle for the bal...
Associated Press

Man United stages fightback to draw 2-2 with Leeds in EPL

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Leeds in the Premier League on Wednesday. Substitute Jadon Sancho rescued a point for Erik ten Hag’s team, which missed the chance to move level on points with second-place Manchester City. Leeds fired Jesse Marsch on Monday. It is […]
15 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones speaks to the media during the NFL football Super B...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Jones sets sack standard for Kansas City defense

PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Jones claims to have very little memory of a relatively benign game in 2017, when the Kansas City Chiefs welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles to Arrowhead Stadium for the second game of the regular season. Jason Kelce remembers it quite well. The veteran Philadelphia center spent the afternoon lining up alongside Isaac […]
2 days ago
Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin speaks after being introduced as the winner of the Alan Page Community ...
Associated Press

Hamlin appears during Super Bowl event to receive award

PHOENIX (AP) — Damar Hamlin made a brief appearance in Phoenix during Super Bowl week to receive the NFLPA’s Alan Page Community Award. The Buffalo Bills safety received the award at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday, a little over a month after he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the […]
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes answers a question during an NFL football Super Bowl...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Mahomes says ankle will be ready for Super Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes says he’s “definitely in a better spot” when it comes to his ailing right ankle than he was for the AFC championship game, and the All-Pro quarterback doesn’t expect to be limited by it when he leads the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. […]
2 days ago
FILE - Las Vegas Aces' Dearica Hamby (5) dribbles up court during a WNBA basketball game against th...
Associated Press

WNBA investigating Hamby’s allegations against Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The WNBA is investigating Dearica Hamby’s allegations that the Las Vegas Aces bullied and manipulated her for being pregnant, the league said in a statement Wednesday. It was the first time the league acknowledged it was looking into the situation. The players’ union had pushed for an inquiry into whether Hamby’s […]
2 days ago
Mat Ishbia, new controlling interest owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, talks to the me...
Associated Press

Ishbia takes over Suns, works to improve team culture

PHOENIX (AP) — Justin Ishbia came home from college one day to find his younger brother Mat shooting hoops over an 8-foot obstacle as he practiced for his upcoming high school basketball season. The older brother asked why the 5-foot-10 Mat was doing that — after all, no one in high school was 8 feet […]
2 days ago
Dearing, who brought swimming diversity debate, loses race