Alice Dearing writes history

With swimming in the pool at an end, you might be wondering how you can get your next swimming fix? Well look no further than the evening of 3rd August 2021 when the Marathon swimming begins!

Now don’t expect a 26.2 mile race because that would take all day, a swimming marathon covers a distance of10k in open water and takes approximately 2 hours to complete.

If you think swimming for that long is impressive then you’ll be even more excited to see Alice Dearing competing for Team GB at this summer’s Olympic Games.

Alice Dearing, the 24-year-old from Birmingham, qualified for her first Olympic Games back in June during an Olympic event in Portugal. Finishing fourth she automatically gained a place at the games and became the first black woman to represent Team GB in Olympic swimming!

📸: Alice Dearing - Representing Team GB

Of both Ghanaian and English heritage, Dearing is only the second black swimmer to represent Great Britain competitively, behind 2010 British breaststroke champion Achieng Ajulu-Bushell. A feat which only highlights the sheer lack of diversity in elite swimming, Dearing enters the Olympic scene as a history maker, a supporter of change and a pure talent.

Her qualification time of sees her enter the Olympics in a solid position. In Gwangju World Championships in 2019, Dearing swam a time of which would have won the gold at Rio 2016.

But don’t be fooled. This is open-water swimming, the water isn’t kind. Depending on the weather and conditions of the water, this race can be tougher than it already is. Swimming round a course marked by various buoys and safety equipment, the wet-suited athletes will have various water stations throughout the course to keep them hydrated throughout the gruelling event.

Dearing is the only Team GB representative in the women’s 10K and takes over from the 2008 Beijing silver medallist Kerri-Anne Payne.

However, Alice isn’t just an inspiration in the water, her championing for change and inclusivity on land is the reason she is such a celebrated figure.

An advocate for diversity in the pool, Alice works closely with the Black Swimming Association, an organisation that moves to promote the importance of learning how to swim, no matter your race, age or gender. Swimming is an essential life skill and with the staggering statistic that 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England do not swim, these numbers need to change. Alice is an ambassador for the BSA, demonstrating how black adults and children can be elite performers in swimming and dismissing harmful stereotypes.

Her involvement with the BSA has created awareness of the lack of diversity in swimming and highlighted the need for movement. Ed Accura’s film documentary ‘A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim’ is a first-hand example of individuals tackling the stereotype that you cannot swim if you are black. The inspiring documentary follows the journey of Accura, who conquers his phobia of water and learns to love swimming along the way.

Alice is also an ambassador for the swim cap brand SOUL CAP. A company which creates swim caps for all hair types, their products are inclusive for all. The SOUL CAP is an extra-large cap created for those who struggled to place their hair in the standard swimming caps that you see in shops. Their mission is to create an environment in which women and men with thick and curly hair do not have to struggle with each swim, making the sport easier and more accessible for all.

📸: Alice Dearing - Ambassador for SOUL CAPs

Unfortunately, the international federation of watersports (FINA) have recently banned SOUL CAPs and their likening from competition stating that they are not suitable for racing and do not fit into the usual accredited equipment. The lack of diversity in swimming is already so apparent that this decision has blatantly denied the inclusion of those who struggle to see themselves in the sport and has not only taken a step backwards in inclusivity but pulled a barrier over the pool doors.

Alice Dearing’s success in and out of the water in her championing for change speaks of her drive and passion for the sport. An incredible swimmer, she uses her position to speak out on issues that matter, and issues which are so important to the world of swimming.

The first black woman to represent Team GB swimming on the Olympic stage takes to the water in a matter of hours to not just swim for gold, but to swim for inclusivity and her own beliefs.

Alice Dearing really is a history maker.

- Megan Armitage

Thanks for reading 💚

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